Getting Ready for the Weekend and Remembering faces


So this weekend is Kingsmead Book Fair, and I am pretty excited to be part of this, on a panel with Joanne Macgregor, Edyth Bulbring, and chaired by Bontle Senne.


We’re on at 13:45 in the Gym:

GymYoung Adult novelists Edyth Bulbring(Snitch)Cat Hellisen(Beastkeeper) and Joanne Macgregor(Scarred) discuss the themes of bullying and bloodlines, beauties and beasts and the transformative power of first love. Chaired by fellow youth writer Bontle Senne.

There will be an SASL interpreter at this session.

Now, fun stuff aside, I’m going to offer an apology in advance, and a small explanation.

Firstly, if you see me and want to say hi, PLEASE DO!


Secondly, even if we have met several times before, it’s probable I won’t recognise you. This is not because of you, it’s because of me. I have great difficulty remembering names and faces. I try very hard to build up a mental index card that matches people up, but if you do something like comb your hair differently, wear (or not wear) glasses, change your clothes, meet me in a different place, my index cards get scrambled and I need to re-sort them. This can take a while, and it’s very embarrassing for me because I hate making people feel like I don’t care who they are. I really do care, I just have an actual problem. The problem is made worse when I am anxious or stressed, and public situations make me both.


So, if it appears I have no idea who you are, just be gentle and say your name and remind me when we last saw each other and I can reshuffle my index.Β  πŸ˜€


I other news, I’ve put CHARM up on Smashwords with a new cover, and added my Mundus short story Oma Zoli’s Mirror.

charm(1)Irene Kerry has grown up with the memory of her mother’s suicide, and has been in love with her best friend Rain for as long as she can remember. She thinks she’s dealing with both just fine until the day her best friend falls in love with a much older man. A man who knew her mother, and believes Irene is a magician like her. In order to protect her friend and family, Irene gets dragged into a hunt for an ancient magician who steals and eats magic, and discovers that the things she thought she knew about her mother’s death were all lies.





OMA ZOLI'S MIRRORDylan McKenzie is a collector of magical artifacts from this world and others, but when a voice underground tells him to look for his heart’s desire, he is pulled into the web of a fallen goddess, sent to murder her sister and bring back her soul.

Oma Zoli’s Mirror shows your heart’s desire. Or her heart. Or her desire. She spins webs to get what she wants, but will the man she’s trapped do as she commands?

Gimme100 and the May Patreon Project

May is feeling pretty damn stressful. I’m still trying to sort out paperwork for the UK immigration thang, I miss that guy what I married once, I may have an aikido grading coming up, I’m still fixing the house, and I’m trying to reignite an old project for the agent-person. Add to that, I’ll be away part of May for the Kingsmead Book Fair.

Hev1LeLSo yeah. Feeling a wee bit eeeeeeek.

But mainly I need to be productive and all that nonsense, so to that end I have two small projects running. The first is a twitter-based bit of fun designed to get over that horrible feeling of, “oh god, words, they are scary, I cant make them, I’m going to watch Sherlock (again) instead.”

It’s called #gimme100, and the premise is that simple – give me 100 words every day. You can write more, but don’t write less.

and people have started joining in, which is pretty cool.

My other project is for Patreon, where I’m growing a story from seed, showing how I grow, compost and prune a short piece of writing.

Growing Stories in small spaces


(start here)



I heard funeral chants. They were distant dreams while I was buried under a blanket of soft goat wool. I was neither awake nor asleep. Instead of being alive, I lay in a half-world of raging sands and alternating fogs so damp and heavy that they pinned my arms to my sides, kept my eyelids pressed shut. It was better to stay there than wake and deal with everything I’d lost.

My skin feels tender and stretched, even the slightest movements pull at stitches, remind me of my bruises.

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Finding new shapes in words

I’ve spoken a bit before about losing the joy in writing. For a good while now (since writing and selling Beastkeeper), I’ve been struggling with my novel-writing. No matter how many novels I start, I decide they are trash, will never sell, and that I’m wasting my time. I junk that book and start the next one, hoping that this time I can stop sounding like Cat Hellisen and instead write something that will appeal to a wider range of readers and therefore to editors.

Lather, rinse, repeat, because you know how people talk about “finding their voice”? Yeah. I have a voice. This is my voice. If we were talking in terms of singing, I am not Britney Spears or Lady Gaga or anyone else whose name you know. Maybe I’m Will Oldham/Bonnie “Prince” BillyΒ  (though he’s more productive and better known than me, Especially as The Palace Brothers, which was my intro to his sound, so…maybe not). Still if this is what I sound like to other people then it might explain my lack of chart success. (FTR, this is one of my favourite songs).

Anyway, so now I have to take a different path. Less of the “finding my voice” and more of the “accepting my voice”. Knowing its limitations and working on those areas, reveling in the bits that sound like no one else but me.

But that means not throwing away the stuff I’m working on, and damn, let me tell you – that’s scary. To keep writing something even if you know most people are going to go eh, whatever, Next! That goes against everything I wanted for myself as a writer (a career, fans, books in book stores).

So I’m doing it in small steps. I am writing 750 words a day on my novella and NOT DELETING because Cat, you can fix this later, stop hating on everything you write. At least for the moment.

I’m remembering to enjoy doing small things that give me space to sing – like poetry, or fanfiction, or flash pieces. Stop worrying about selling by writing stuff that I know already doesn’t sell, so it doesn’t matter.

The Migratory Patterns of Family Recipes

When I am done with the novella, my agent wants me to work on an old novel that I had (once, again) abandoned, and it is all stitchery and witchery and women’s gods and women’s power, so I am pretty excited to get back into that world. This is why I write, so I can play.

In the mean while I have books out there on submission, and one day they will find the editors they are meant to find. Or they won’t. And that’s just how it goes. All I can do is keep writing small and large about the things that interest me. Making up my own songs, drumming my own beat.



(start here)



We wake alone. The house is standing expectant, waiting for Eline to strike. I think of the body cooling in the blue room and press my fist against my mouth until the urge to sob passes.

Another little game piece, fallen. We met at a party, and her first words to me were about the Ives’ girls who had just been brought into the House games of power and prestige. I couldn’t tell if she felt sorry for them or not. Certainly, she didn’t see them as innocents. But she never had their weapons, their training. And she lost because of that, and more importantly, because of me.

I let the tremors pass through me. She’s gone. She’s not going to paint raw and wild pictures, or smoke ‘ink in back street tea shops.

Read More →


(start here)



β€œWhat are you trying to do?” Jannik says the moment we are alone in our suite of rooms.

β€œI don’t know what you mean.” Outside has gone dark with the afternoon thunderstorm. If Pelimburg was a city of impossible times, MallenIve in summer is a pocket-watch. By three the clouds begin to gather low and black, rumbling ominously to each other as they convene, and within the hour, they release their downpour on the sweating city. A fat blob of rain splatters on the glass. Four o’clock, then.

β€œThis – hurting people, using them. It’s not like you.” He walks closer, and the room shifts around him, growing small and close. Trapping me. β€œFirst Merril, and now her.”

β€œI protected you,” I say. β€œWould you rather I stood back and watched you suffer?” I can hear the tears in my voice, that thick sound of a female weakness for which my brother always mocked me. I swallow over and over, willing myself back to a calm state – a vacant, logical state.

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UK Ancestry Visa and the Mountains of Paperwork



Many years ago, The Boy and I discussed leaving South Africa (he had just been stabbed multiple times on the way home from watching the F1 at our local; I was home with a 3-month-old baby and four-year-old spawnlet). We looked at Australia and Canada, but it was a feeble and half-hearted sort of looking, and after a while the idea was placed on the back burner and we got on with our lives. We moved back to Cape Town, started over from scratch, moved around until we settled (very happily) in my lovely Muizenberg.

The idea came up again after The Boy discovered that several of his cousins had emigrated on the UK ancestry visa. We had known that his granny was UK-born, but it had never really registered as an option. So we thought – stay in Muizenberg forever, or try go overseas and see what happens?

Well, I hate the word forever, so we went for see what happens.

We checked out the info on and realised this was an actual real possibility. Though it did pain us to discover if we’d started this a few years back we would have missed that damn International Health Surcharge (at Β£200 per year of your visa, per person, it is a phenomenal amount of extra cash to add to your costs,especially with a family. Be warned.)

We began the lengthy process of organising all our paperwork. The Boy’s granny’s birth certificate was super-easy – we looked up her details online, applied, paid the ten quid, and had it in our hands within a matter of weeks.

The South African paperwork was not to be as simple or easy. Some stuff was relatively quick (and in fact, in the case of the Spawn’s passports, joyous – the passport staff at Cape Town Home Affairs were wonderful – efficient, friendly, helpful, and we had the passports in under a week.)

Applying for birth and marriage certificates was a whole other experience. Because of the discrepancy in information (some websites said unabridged certificates, others insisted unabridged were no good and they had to be vault copies) we decided to get both the unabridged and vault copies of all the relevant birth certificates to be on the safe side:

The Boy’s Mother’s, his own, and The Spawn’s.

We also needed the marriage certificates of his grandmother, and mother, and our own.

Thanks to what I believe was a Home Affairs system crash around 2002ish, some of those documents took close on a year to get, with us having to fill in multiple requests. In the case of Elder Spawn, we had to fill in paperwork for Late Registration of Birth twice, despite the fact that she had both her abridged birth certificate and her passport. So, fair warning if you have paperwork from that time period, as there could be major delays.

The Achieving of The Works of Paper took so long that I do believe most people thought we were joking about emigrating, but once we had everything in hand, we could finally take the next step.

TB certificates. Yes, the country that sent us all their consumptive wretches wants us to prove we’re not bringing the disease back to them… πŸ˜‰

There is only one place in Cape Town you can get your required TB certification, and it’s in Parow shopping centre. The address is on the UK gov site, you can make the booking, and you’ll need about R1600, a passport photo, your passport, and proof of a UK address. We had booked The Boy into a hostel in Glasgow for a week, and paid a 10% deposit, and that proved fine.

The Boy would be going over first to scout and settle (we had already decided on Scotland for Reasons (Hogwarts)) and, armed with reams of paperwork, sufficient proof of funds (this varies, make sure you can support a single person for around 3 months on UK terms, this was pretty distressing for us as the rand was tanking and we were watching our possible pounds rapidly diminishing), six months of bank statements, proof that he had been applying for work (printouts from job application sites, and a letter from one recruitment agency stating that they had a client who was very interested in The Boy), his TB certificate, and a huge chunk of money to pay for the International Health Surcharge and UK Ancestry Visa fees (Β£1000 and Β£405 at time of writing), he filled in the online application form, paid all the fees, and made a booking with the Biometrics/Visa place in Green Point.

A week of anxious waiting and finally The Boy went in to hand over all his (triple checked) supporting paperwork, passport, and printed application, and have his fingerprinting etc done. The application was sent to Pretoria, and we had to deal with a whole lot more anxious fretting, but in 12 days he had an email telling him that a decision had been made.

They don’t tell you via email or phone if it’s a yes or no, but as soon as The Boy was able to pick up his papers, there it was – a lovely stamped entry visa. The entry visa is not the actual visa, but a 30 day time frame in which you can enter the UK, you can still be turned back at immigration. The actual visa is now a separate card you can carry in your wallet, called a biometric residence permit, and you pick it up when in the UK.

Naturally much joy was joyed, and hallulujahs rung.

Next, we had to get him over.



(start here)



Carien rises from the pale green couch as we file into the visitor’s parlour.

An icy rage sweeps over me, and my heart beats faster and faster. The rage dies as suddenly as it rose, and in its place I feel a faint green shimmer of hope. I quell it. Don’t fall for her, for her false innocence. β€œWhat are you doing here?” I say. β€œHow dare you–”

Harun raises his hands. β€œFelicita, stop.”

Carien looks at all of us, her face a blank House mask. Her eyes widen at Jannik’s appearance; the fading bruises, and the blood still welling from his wounds. She seems genuinely flustered. β€œOh -I – Oh my, what happened?”

Jannik snarls, and says nothing.

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Officially Official: Scotland, Prepare Yourself

It’s my husband’s birthday today (happy borning day, spousal unit!), and yesterday the universe gave him probably the best gift ever. It sure beat my hairbrush (what? he has lots of hair, he needs a detangling brush…).

The upshot of Awesome Present is we now know where we’re moving to. Some of you know we’ve been planning to emigrate, and now it’s official. In 2 weeks, The Boy will be in Dunfermline, Scotland, and before the end of this year, we will be joining him.

I am so excited about this new adventure, even if I’m freaking out a little about the cost, and leaving friends and family, and starting from scratch in a new country at age 39… Ha! But, I think it will be awesome, and I cannot wait to see my new home. πŸ˜€


Once we’re there this may become something of an immigrant’s blog as I track my experiences, so, fair warning.


(start here)



Another hour passes before Master Gillcrook sends us a messenger from the Guyin house. The Hob is crimson-faced and breathless when he arrives. I send for cider and bread for him while I read the note. It does not reveal much, merely that the meeting with Eline is over, and the house is safe to return to. I raise one eyebrow. For how long? Garret will have realized by now, surely. He will make a move soon – open or hidden.

We need to be prepared for either. I pull the bell to summon Master Twissel from his rooms. He arrives, smooth and unflustered even though it is the middle of the night. β€œThe servants need to be moved,” I tell him. Even though we have just brought them all here and attempted to settle in. They’re going to be put out, but better that than caught in another fire.

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