Hello New Zealand, Hello The Wangapeka

I arrived in New Zealand on December 29th, 2016, summer in the southern hemisphere.  The air was fragrant with all sorts of floral aromatics, the warm breeze was fresh from the ocean, and I was excited to be in such a new and different place.  Just some of the things I noticed right away:

  • Cars drive on the other side of the road.
  • The plugs are all different and have individual switches.
  • The light switches are tiny and reversed (up is off!).
  • You hang clothes up to dry outside (no one has clothes dryers) because it doesn’t rain for months on end.
  • Everyone makes their own yoghurt.
  • The licence plates are just a number, no country/province necessary when you’re an island nation.

Nelson, NZ

Having lived in Canada my whole life, there are some things ingrained into me that I hadn’t realised until I came to NZ.  That shadow in the bushes?  Not a raccoon.  That rustling on the path at night?  Nothing to worry about, certainly not a bear.  There are no predators here.  There are no naturally occurring mammals here.  Mice, rats, stoats, and possums have made it over, but no large predators.  No snakes even.  It feels a lot like BC, but the ever-present feeling that there are hungry beasties hidden about is a vibe I still, 6 months in paradise, cannot quite shake.  There something deep and old about the fear of predators; I see fields of sheep everywhere and just cannot wrap my head around there being nothing for them to worry about.

Coming from the worst winter in my life (in all aspects; the weather was just terrible!) into a tropical wonderland was the most perfect thing.

I stayed with a wonderful woman, Rona Spencer, for a week.  She showed me all around town to orient me, and took me on a walk up to the Brook Wildlife Sanctuary.  The birdsong here is incredible; Tui and Bellbird have the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard, and Canada’s no slouch when it comes to bird life!

In the shuttle on the way to the Wangapeka

After my week in Nelson, I headed up to The Wangapeka.  I now know it by many names: The Centre, The Wanga, officially The Wangapeka Study and Retreat Centre.  I and another retreatant took the shuttle up a day early (Colin is great if you ever need to get anywhere in the Nelson area, or book him up to the Centre, he really knows the drive!).  My early-companion had been to Wangapeka before and showed me all around to get me oriented.  I’ve had many kind and wonderful guides since coming here; they always seem to show up right when I need them most.

I walked up to the whare (pronounced “far-ay”- the “wh”s here are pronounced as “f”s), the beautiful teaching house.  I saw NZ’s first Stupa.  I heard and saw many things for the first time that made me feel like I was in a magical place.

If you don’t know what a retreat is, it’s basically taking intentional time away from life to do personal work.  The retreat I went on was a 2 week Chenrezig retreat.  It’s a form of meditation that helps explore many aspects of self, with the ultimate goal of cultivating compassion.  It was my first time using a mala, which are beads on a string to help count mantra.  I remain an atheist; there are many aspects of Buddhism I cannot get behind, but many that I can.  I have found it incredibly useful to explore the mind using some of the tools it offers, Chenrezig being one of them.

So many people have been doing work of various kinds at the Centre for so long that it feels… anything I say will sound like mystical hoo-hah.  It just feels special.  Knowing that people have faced their inner demons, have explored dark and deep crevices of their minds, have had the guts to delve into themselves and root around, gave the place a feeling of gravitas, of solemn importance.  It made me feel comforted; I am not the first person to be going through a great loss, nor will I be the last.

I think I fell in love with The Wangapeka when I arrived.  It could be that a drowning person will love any lifeboat, but as time has gone on, I don’t think I love it just because it helped me so much in a time of great need.  I see the work being done there, see that just having a place for serious retreat work is a gift.  The care and attention put into that place over the many years has made it a special place.

I did a solo retreat for a few days after Chenrezig ended.  I went to the highest hut, Omahu, and had uninterrupted time all to myself.  I has one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen, for what it represented to me as much as the actual sight.  I cried for joy when I got up there; how lucky I am to have landed here and get to be in such a place.

The view from Omahu

Since that first retreat I’ve been back several times; I did a week long “intro retreat” to further understand retreat work in general.  Then, I was back in Nelson and prepared to send my roommates and many friends off for a month-long retreat.  Many pieces fell into place: my roommate Chani was the retreat organiser, I had been cooking a ton and sending delicious food to Wangapeka-related meetings, I made it known that I loved the Wangapeka and wanted to help in any way I could, I was completely at loose ends (I cancelled my flight back to Canada) and I was looking for work.  This perfect storm was bubbling away when, three days before their retreat was due to start, they found themselves without a cook.

Badda bing badda boom, chef Heidi to the rescue!

I learned how to use the ordering system, how to portion, what the dietary requirements were, made meal plans, and got oriented with the kitchen in three days.  Then I cooked for a big group for a month!

It was some of the happiest time of my life.  Waking up every morning with a purpose, knowing I was helping support the work people were doing, making delicious and nutritious food, being around wonderful people in that place, and going to teachings in the morning and group meditations in the evening- it was exactly what I needed.

I even got a couple of breaks, and got to go on a hiking trip into the Nelson Lakes.

After the month, I stayed to cook for a work week, where amazing woofers helped with whatever needed doing.  Then I was asked to cook for a “harp meditation” weekend, and I spent my final days in one of the higher up huts, Skydancer.

It snowed a bit, heralding the start of winter.

It’s been nearly two months since I was last there, and I can’t wait to go back.  I’ll be cooking for a 4-day Chenrezig retreat soon, then for the AGM, then staying on to cook for a six-week retreat and all the ones that happen on the weekends concurrently.  I feel so lucky to have the opportunities that I do.  If you spend enough time setting up bowling pins, you can stand back and have a go at knocking them down.  I have been bowling a pretty terrific game since I arrived in NZ, that’s for sure.

Oh and during that month long retreat, my publisher sent me the final MS to proof.  I did some intensive editing in the caretaker’s office between lunch and dinner.  They also asked for the acknowledgements and my bio.  What hilarious timing to have to write a paragraph about who I am.

Because really, who am I?

…I’m Heidi.

Thanks for reading.  ❤

Heidi out.

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A good week!

It feels really good to be deep into working on Sleep Over again. It also feels good to have a timeline nailed down. I didn’t put events in order because I wanted the narrative to mirror the confusion of the insomnia apocalypse, where time gets distorted and it’s really hard to tell when things happened or how long anything has been happening. Now that I’ve done it both ways (no timeline and now a solid timeline for revisions) I think I can have the best of both worlds.

I still don’t want my readers to know how long anything in the book takes, or even how long the insomnia lasts; I want it to truly feel like time has no meaning, and confusion casts doubt on any times given.

But now at least my publisher will have a better idea of the timeline, and they can better ask me for specific things they’d like to hear more of for the next round of revisions.

Hurrah!

Here’s some pictures for stopping by. In case you don’t know, if there’s a large version I will make them clickable! My site can only handle images so big. Cheers!



London police officer proposes during Pride:

And a video of some Irish fans serenading a baby on the tube.

Getting it square

This week I worked on putting together a fictional timeline of the insomnia apocalypse for my publisher. I’ll see what sort of revisions they have in mind once they see a blow-by-blow of world events during Sleep Over!

Here’s some stuff I’ve enjoyed recently. Cheers!





That’s all for now folks.
Oh, except that Witness continues to be amazing- Aaron and I discovered something last night that opened up a whole new world of puzzles to solve. Puzzles, puzzles everywhere!!!

Cheerio,
Heidi out.

Another round of revisions!

Well, my editor at Skyhorse has come back with comments on my revised MS, and they would like another round of revisions. We’ll see how much work it’s going to end up being, but I know in the end it will make for a more marketable book. I’m on board!

In the mean time, what else have I got for you?

I just got the new Dominion expansion and it is amazing! If you like Dominion, or haven’t played it but are interested in deck building games, this is a very neat expansion. It has some interesting new mechanics, like having different cards in a single supply pile. And castles! I can’t wait to use castles to win.

Oh and another thing! Check out this comic anthology: Dirty Diamonds Vol.7 is on Kickstarter! It looks like it will be amazing. I backed Vol.6 and was very happy with it! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dirtydiamonds/dirty-diamonds-7-imagination-an-all-girl-comic-ant?ref=user_menu

Here’s some neat pics to leave off. Cheerio!

Thanks for stopping by. Heidi out.

NO to The Huffington Post, YES to These Sites That Pay Writers

Hear, hear!

Just Alyssa

Since I don't have anyone on staff to choose photos and write captions, you'll just have to picture me as Leia and Arianna as Jabba. (I do own the slave bikini, FWIW.) Since I don’t have anyone on staff to choose photos and write captions, you’ll just have to picture me as Leia and Arianna as Jabba. (I do own the slave bikini, FWIW.)

If I had one wish for today – besides stopping the wild fires, world peace, an end to hunger and poverty and climate change, and maybe the Republican Clown Car driving off a cliff – it would be that everyone stop reading The Huffington Post. Even just for one day, imagine if no one went there, and we made clear on social media that it’s because THEY DON’T PAY WRITERS! They rake in hundreds of millions of dollars, and do not pay writers. Not only does that suck as profoundly as nibbling on Jabba The Hut’s slimy big toe while he strokes your head and calls you “lovey” and jerks your chain (unless you’re in to that,) it has…

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Mayhaps I’ve Found Some Delights

Here are some nice things I’ve found to share with you:

This video made me laugh- what a joy!
https://vid.me/e/5WoZ?stats=1&tools=1
This dog has been separated from his owner for a while.  Watch as he realises something wonderful is about to happen:

And here’s author Maurice Sendak on the best complement he ever received from a reader:

I’ve been watching a lot of wildlife documentaries lately.  (Sidenote: my cat Lemon has been enjoying them too- so far her favourite animals have been polar bears, meerkats, and foxes.)  I have learned of many amazing things through the BBC Life series (it’s on Netflix here if you want to check it out!)

If you’ve ever wondered what stuff would look like if you crushed it with a hydraulic press, wonder no more!  The Hydraulic Press Channel just got its one millionth subscriber!  Here’s their recent video, crushing a diamond.  It’s great fun!

That’s all for now.  Thanks for reading.

Heidi out.

Would You Rather / Hateful Ace / The Witness

Hello dear readers!  Things are going well; I am waiting on my editor at Skyhorse to have a look at the final draft of the MS.  From there it’s line and copy editing.  I can’t wait until I can share the cover with you!!

In the meantime, I wanted to share a few neat games with you.  For one you will need nothing but people, for the other you will need people and a deck of cards, and for one you’ll need the game itself and a thinking cap!

I played a game called Would You Rather on New Years Eve, and it is fascinating.  It’s a game where one person posits a question to the group, and each person has a go at picking the thing “they would rather”.  The devil’s in the details though; the best ones are the ones that divide the group in half.

Here are some of the “would you rathers” that stuck with me.

Would you rather: never have eggs again, OR never have berries again?  (To clarify, “berries” are things that are berries in common parlance, not any technical bullshit like “tomatoes are berries” or “strawberries aren’t berries, they’re aggregate accessory fruits”.  And never having eggs again includes anything that eggs are in.)

Would you rather: Whenever you encounter stairs, you don’t know what they are or understand what they work, and to use them someone must explain them to you, OR have every article of clothing you wear jingle like it’s full of a ton of loose pocket change?  (To clarify, you don’t remember you don’t understand stairs; every time you encounter them is like the first time, and you simply cannot use them until someone helps you grock what they are.)

Would you rather: Have your mind in a gorilla in a lab being experimented on, with the knowledge that you will eventually be retired to a sanctuary at the end of your life, OR have your mind as it was at 4 years old, in a horse, working as a trail-ride horse.  (To clarify: as a gorilla, you are you with all your experience and knowledge.  You may have a chance to communicate with your captors, or a chance to escape, but only after years of failed attempts.  As a horse, you are you as you were at 4 years old.)

It yielded some interesting discussions.

Another game you will need a deck of cards for.  It’s called Hateful Ace, and it’s a neat party game as well!

BTW there’s a huge market for collectable decks of cards right now; Kickstarter has been a boon for designers!

So, grab a deck of cards and shuffle it up.

The game is about trying to guess how good or how bad something is, according to the person talking about it.  Good things are red, not so good things are black.  High cards are more, low cards are less.  So a red ace is best, a black ace is worst.  A red 7 is pretty good.  A red 2 is just barely ok; black 2 barely not ok, and a black 7 pretty bad.

So someone goes first and draws a (secret) card.  They look at it and formulate something to say that will enable the other players to guess the card.

Say I draw a Jack of diamonds-

I’d have to think of something I thought was pretty good.  It could be something that happened to me, or something in general that I made up.  I might say something like “…When you see your book cover for the first time.”  And one by one, the other players guess what card I have.  If someone nails it bang on, guess stops, and they’re awarded the card as their point.  If no one gets it, it goes to whoever is closest.  In the event of a tie, you can do either carry the point over, or do a tie breaker question with another card.

When it’s someone else’s turn, I won’t know what card they have and have to guess it using their clue.  So if I said to you, “Seeing someone achieve their lifelong dream of becoming a published author, and you really dig their book,” what would you guess?  I’d have to guess

because to me that’s pretty damn good.  (By the way, that 10 of diamonds comes with 3D glasses; it’s a set of 3D playing cards!)

The last game I want to mention quickly is “The Witness“.  It’s a puzzle solving game where you wander around a beautiful island and solve puzzles.  I can’t say too much without it feeling like spoilers, so I’ll just show you some pictures, and then a link to a video review from one of my favourite content creators right now, Justin MacElroy.

So it’s pretty beautiful and beautifully pretty!  The puzzles are fun and challenging, and truly there are some innovative things to stump you until you have a lightbulb moment.  I really recommend this game if you like solving puzzles!

So that’s all for me for now.  I’ll keep you posted about the progress of my book, Sleep Over.  I hope to update here more regularly, even if it’s just to say hi and to show you neat stuff I’ve found, writing or otherwise.  🙂

Thanks for stopping by!

Heidi out.

Cognitive Bias Affecting A Writer’s Ability to Maintain Consistent Character Portrayal

OK so here’s something I’ve been thinking about.  For the life of me I cannot find the source study that this post is based off of, but I remember enough of the gist of it to go from here.

You can change your cognitive bias by writing opinions opposite to what you believe.

Let’s say you believe the television show Dr. Who is stupid.  If you write, hand-write on paper, the phrase “Dr. Who might actually be ok.” a bunch (I cannot remember the efficacy of numbers of repetitions), your opinions will drift.  Where you started out hating the show, after you write that phrase, your opinion of it will be measurably boosted.  You will now allow for the possibility that the show might actually be ok.

This is fascinating.  We can change our opinions simply by writing words on paper, even if we do not believe those words, and even when we are aware of this phenomenon.

So, how does this interact with writing?

I theorize that this phenomenon affects writers’ ability to maintain a cohesive portrayal of a character over a long period of time.

Think about it.  You’re writing a character, and part of that is making value judgements of them from the perspectives of other characters.  In effect, writing the opinions of other characters will affect how you perceive and portray your characters.

If you’re constantly expressing opinions about characters, then your own opinions of them are constantly being modified, and will change how you portray them.

!!!

You can see such ‘character portrayal drift’ in TV shows that run for a long time.  If one character is constantly told by others that ‘they don’t know what they’re doing’ for instance, then future portrayals of that character may lean into that judgement.  Over time, said character may become completely inept at everything they do, because they never know what they’re doing.  There is of course the actor’s portrayal of the character, and that can become caricaturish, but they are still working from a script, where writers are furthering the character on the page.

This is how shows become almost caricatures of themselves.  Characters become more of whatever everyone in the show thinks they are.  The stupid ones get stupider, the meticulous ones become more meticulous.

Writing is non linear.  Edits are happening all over the place, and drafts have whole sections cut and added all throughout.  But the flow of time when we write remains constant, and so as we make changes, our biases change the characters.

I’m still trying to figure this one out… this post has been in my ‘drafts’ folder for a few months now.  I wanted to get it out there and percolating through the cultural morphic field.  See what comes back to me.

So there’s something to pay attention to.  What shows do you notice this happening in?  What books?  If you think about it, has this phenomenon effected your writing?  I’d love to hear about it.

And because that was all work and no play, here’s a cool thing for fun.

Cheers.

Heidi out.

10 Overused Words in Writing

A great list!

Precise Edit's Blog

All words are good words. Some, however, are overused without adding value to what you write. As a result, they reduce the readers’ interest, make text seem redundant, and cause the writer to appear amateurish.

We have created a list of 10 overused words, based on the documents we have edited over the last 5 years. We don’t recommend that you remove these words from your writing. Instead, we recommend that you become aware of how often you use them and that you revise your documents to limit their use.

1. There
When writers are not sure about the subjects of their sentences, they will often use this word as the subject. This results in weak writing. (For advice on correcting this problem, see our article “Where Is There?”)

Example: “There was no one at home.” This can be revised as “No one was at home.”

youfingerpointing12. You
Writers often…

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50 Best Films About Writers, Ranked

Looks like I have a whole bunch more on my “to watch” list. One I’d add though: Seven Psychopaths. It’s great.

Flavorwire

Hollywood is famous for its treatment of writers. They are the low man on the totem pole, the person banned from the set, the guy who wrote the Great American novel drinking himself to death in Los Angeles, rewriting dumb scripts. It’s funny, as Hollywood — along with movies around the world — is obsessed with portraying “writers” on screen, which is a weird profession to lionize as writing is the least visually pleasing job of all.

There are a lot of bad movies about writers out there. At Flavorwire, we wanted to make the definitive list of the 50 Best Films About Writers of all time, with the requisite mix of biopics, book adaptations (what’s up Stephen King and John Irving), foreign films that actually feature female writers, po-mo meta surrealist studies of madness (very frequent), and the works of Woody Allen. (A thank you to writer Alexander Chee, whose…

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