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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Hello and Welcome to the New HG!

Hello Dear Readers.  Personal post ahead!

Thanks so much for still sticking around with me.  It’s been a doozy of a time, a real top-notch shitshow for me personally.  The past 2 years have been awful.  But things are great now.  The Coles’ Notes: I was with my husband for 14 years, and now we’re getting divorced.  I had a home and two cats, now I no longer have a home or cats.  I was in Canada, now I’m in New Zealand.  I was awesome, now I am EVEN MORE FRICKIN’ AWESOME.

(Here’s me at my own private “Polar Bear Swim” at Tahunanui Beach in Nelson, January 1st, 2017!)

I love life.  I have had the best time of my life the past few months.  It’s hard to go through something as disruptive as a divorce, but I’m doing well, and have a new improved outlook on life, the universe, and everything.

I wanted to share some things about me and keep you in the loop.  As this blog is primarily about my writing career, you’ll be pleased to hear that my novel, Sleep Over, is coming out soon!  I am beyond excited that I’ve come this far and will finally get to see one of my books in print, from an amazing publisher.  (More updates to follow of course!)

(Here’s me in the shuttle being driven further into New Zealand to the Wangapeka.)

As you can see, I have opted for a new name.  H.G. Bells reporting for duty!  I picked a new name that I think will be easy to 1) pronounce 2) spell and 3) remember.  I hope to hit the ground running when Sleep Over comes out, and my new name will hopefully at least not completely hobble me when it comes to being the new kid on the block.

And it has the added benefit of being similar to one of the ‘fathers of sci-fi’, H.G. Wells.  I hope to follow in his footsteps and contribute to sci-fi as he did (ambitious much Heidi?  Baby you know it!).

So my next few posts will be about me in New Zealand.  It’s so beautiful here, and it’s been an incredible place to begin healing my poor broken heart, meet amazing people, and generally expand my horizons.

(Me up at Omahu at the Wangapeka… the most beautiful place.)

Writing-wise, I will say that going through a divorce was incredibly disruptive, surprising no one.  What did surprise me, was my ability to complete a major set of revisions for my publisher during the worst time of my life.  I have to tell you, when I got the email that my draft had been accepted it was such a huge weight off my back.  It made me realise that I have spent so much time and effort honing my craft that it was still functional while my whole world was being burnt to the ground around me.  I can still perform as a writer while my world is on fire.  I honestly didn’t think I could do it, and, while I was struggling to get the final draft done during those dark times, I thought for sure it was the end of my writing life.  But I have emerged from that process with a deeper appreciation and confidence in my work, my process, and in myself.  I built the foundation of my craft strong, and I built it to last.  Thanks Past Heidi, you did a real good job there.  (Future Heidi if you’re reading this: hi!  I love you!)

Also, I am strong as fuck.  If there’s a thing on this earth that can break me, I sure as hell don’t know what it is.  (ATTN gods of fate: this is not a challenge, pls leave Heidi alone for a while k thanks bye.)

But, while I am strong, I am tired as hell.  I would love it if Sleep Over could come out and do well so I can breathe a little easier.  I know it’s not easy establishing oneself on the world stage of authordom (and realistically I expect to need several published books before I can count myself as successful), but hopefully Sleep Over will be a good start.  And then I can really shine.  Because, while I can keep up with the process while going through hell, my best work has been while I’ve had a stable and happy life.  I hope to get back to something approximating that some day, and can continue on with a vague life trajectory.

We make all these plans, and then life happens.  We assume we will be the same, but we’re all changing all the time.  Things change, we change, and here I am surfing a big change.  Yeehaa!!!

So that’s me.  Thanks for reading my most personal update yet.  I truly cannot express how grateful I am to still have you with me, for your kind words, your support, your love.  As I’m rising from the ashes of my former life I can see so much to be grateful for, so much to love, so much to feel.  And through it all, be it from the sidelines or holding my hand, is you.

Much love,

Continually Yours,

Heidi Grace Bells

 

P.S. You can email me at my snazzy new email address:  heidi {at} hgbells {dot} com  And as you may notice, my website has changed to match!  hgbells {dot} com is the new me!

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.

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.

BEST NEWS EVERYONE!

It is with great pleasure that I announce I have a publisher for my novel Sleep Over!

My first published novel will be with Skyhorse Publishing.  They have placed 33 books on the New York Times bestseller list; I hope to add one more to that tally.

I am working closely with one of their editors to get the manuscript where they want it (for a larger audience, more commercial fiction than literary fiction) and I am 10000% on board with getting it to be the best that I possibly can, to reach as large and audience that I can!

I have about 1.5 tons of work to do.  How much writing is that?  Many.  Many writing to do.  Notes on just about every chapter.  Many new chapters to write.

I am so excited!

I have been waiting to tell everything this news for… let’s see, I submitted my first novel to a publisher in 2002, then wrote 5 more books, then, carry the 1… yes, ten thousand years.  But more specifically I had to keep this news about this publisher and this book under wraps for so long!  I am so glad to get to tell you finally.

Hurray for me!  I have a publisher!

I will keep you posted on things to come.

Expect to hear such exciting news like:

  • crumbling under the stress of revisions 
  • tackling tough revisions with gusto
  • getting the final draft approved by my editor
  • getting an author photo
  • getting a back blurb
  • getting cover quotes
  • getting a cover!
  • the book going to print
  • a release date
  • and much much more!

This process takes a crazy long time; don’t expect to see my book until 2017 (I think a January release was being tossed around- maybe I will get the best birthday present ever).

I will be sure to keep you posted.

Here’s a link to Skyhorse’s site.  Sleep Over will be under the Talos imprint, with their other great sci-fi, fantasy, and horror.  (For those that don’t know, publishing houses have “imprints” that handle the various genres they work with.)

I’d like to thank everyone who has checked in to see how things are going.  It’s a long process, and having your support has really made a difference to me.

Thanks for reading.  ❤

Heidi out.

SiWC 2015: Some Helpful Craft Psychology

Surrey International Writers’ Conference was amazing this year!  I met many wonderful authors and went to many amazing talks on things like the nitty gritty of the publishing side of the biz, and how to not fall into an unending well of depression brought on by improperly setting up the psychology around your writing career.  You know, keepin’ it casual.

It was very refreshing to hear more about the psychology of writing.  I have known for a long time that relying on external sources for motivation and validation is a mistake- so too is expecting to feel like you’ve “made it”.  So then what do?  How act?  Mongo just pawn in game of life!

Well for starters, I am working on building my own network.  I have a writing group, but I need to take charge and make it happen more often.  Building a group of trusted writers takes time and tons of effort, but it seems like a solid way to have a supportive environment in which to practice the craft.

Next I am going to celebrate more things.  It can’t be 15 years of work and then a single day of jubilation at seeing my book on a shelf.  It just can’t be that.  Why did I think that was a good way to go.  *rolls eyes at self*  SO the solution is to focus more on the journey, and celebrating the little steps along the way!

For instance, celebrate getting rejection letters.  They are proof that you submitted!

Celebrate finishing something.  Want to celebrate more often?  Bang out some short stories and treat cho self to something nice.  Reenforce the behaviour you want to cultivate!

I made a list of things for me to celebrate upcoming:

  • Announcing a publisher (SOON I SWEAR TO GOD)
  • Handing in the final draft
  • Getting the proofed MS to review and handing it off
  • Getting the back blurb
  • Getting any cover quotes
  • Submitting my author photo
  • When it goes to print
  • When it comes out

They likely won’t be huge celebrations, maybe just a meal out.  The point is to mark them and continue to support myself by acknowledging my successes.  If I’m only planning on having one big thing to look forward to, then what?  I will be looking to the next thing?  So like, ONE good day a year?  Naw bra.  I want many little things to be happy about.  I want to feel good about this process.

Also I need to get better at waiting for things that I have literally no control over.

In the mean time: more writing!

Good luck to everyone doing NaNoWriMo this year!  Crank out that word count.

Pic + video unrelated.

 

Cheers.

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.