C.L. Hellisen

reader, writer, artist

The Art of Self-Distraction for Writers

Beastkeeper is coming out in 11 days. Naturally I am trying to distract myself because…eep.

To that end I have been busy:

Building up a sizeable collection of bruises at aikido

Painting all my furniture

smashing mirrors in my kitchen with a mallet

making tarot-art

shooting things legolas-style

cuddling guinea pigs

making weird cordials

gin gin gin

You’ll notice that writing is not on that list. Put it down to pre-release panic. I’ll pick it up again, someday.

My author copy arrived in the mail and lemme tell you, that art is gorgeous. The full wrap is going up on my wall, it’s that pretty.


Help support Zola Pigg! Keep her in (expensive) pellets and sweet meadow hay! Buy this book! Or a different one! Mmm tea!

Crop-rotation of the soul and other granola concepts.

Right. Crop rotation. You probably learned about this in school, yeah, but a quick refresher – you have four+ fields, in each you plant a different crop, the following year, you move all the crops along, and you give one of the fields a rest, planting it up with something like vetch to give nitrogen and stuff back to the soil.

Okay? We clear?

And why the hell am I talking bout crop rotation?

Because I’ve come to a realisation thanks to Beth Wodzinski about how the various pursuits she loves all draw from the same energy source, and that got me thinking about how I do something similar.

I have only so much whatever, and when I feel like I can’t write anymore, I should not look at it as stalling, or writers’ block, but as an opportunity for crop rotation.

So right now,  instead of freaking out that I’m not working on a book, I am planting a different seed. (If you follow me on instagram or twitter, yeah soz,  have been picspamming. :P) I’m working on other creative things – fixing things in the house, doodling, gardening.


These all are good for my creative brain, and they fulfill the need to be making something, while also being productive and giving the word-field a chance to recover, to get rich and fertile in time for the next season.



Homeschooling tree

Busy prepping for the 2015 school year, and one of the ideas I came up with while walking, was this tree.

homeschool tree

I painted this today (that’s our school room wall, also known as the dining room to normal people), with the idea that when school starts I will make leaves from three different colour cards. Tentatively these cards are green, orange and pink, but we’ll see what the shop has :P

The plan is for at the beginning of each week for both Spawn to write on a green leaf a goal for the week (can be big or small) and on the orange one a little idea or suggestion to make school better.

At the end of the week they will write something they’re proud of achieving on a pink leaf. Slowly through the year we should see our tree coming into leaf.

I might add teacher cards like birds or fruit for things I think of through the year, still mulling that thought around.

Anyway, both Spawn are very excited about the project, and that’s a good way to start off a year.

something fishy

My friend Elissa Hoole has been making doodles, and I loved what she was doing so much that I was inspired to go buy some fineliners and paper yesterday, and scribble away.

Doodling is safe. It’s okay if I fuck up because it’s just a doodle. No one expects it to be a masterpiece. So I can just enjoy the process. Something I’m remembering from doodling is that it all looks crap until you add more. More colour, more layers, more shading, more line.


Applies to books to yes?

I need to get back to The Silver Bowl, and I need to not worry about fucking up, because it’s just a doodle and I can rework it later, and with every layer of detail, it will look less crap.


Good morning, 2015.

This year is ready for me, and I am ready for it



I’m starting out how I plan to go on:


Walked on the beach with the hounds and family, breathing in the smell of storm-raised kelp and rotting seals and salt water.


Had breakfast and champagne, ordered art supplies, and read comics. Felt happy and peaceful, and the tiniest bit itchy with anticipation.


I am so excited for this year.

Did you get an ereader for Christmas?

Oh good.

South African writers can be really hard to get hold of outside The Country, but more and more SA publishers are making the books available as ebooks. (hush, it takes us a while to catch up sometimes.)

There’s a huge range of fiction coming out of SA – from the things you’d expect, like political, heavy-hitting, narrative journalism, to completely alternate world fantasy.

So here are two very different books to look at and add to your ereader.

single cover 150


Loss has left Ella Spinner alone to care for her husband, Bart, who suffers from clinical depression. Their days now echo the tides: any progress made, rolls back. Yet Ella keeps pushing against the monotony. Set in Mossel Bay, Ella’s day begins like any other. But on this day the minutes begin to crack allowing change to filter through. As we cheer on her tenacity, we’re left asking ourselves what motivates anyone to try again.

Tiah Beautement is an American-Brit living on the Garden Route with her South African husband, kids, dog and a flock of chickens. In between her own writing, she helps run Short Story Day Africa. This Day (Modjaji 2014) is her second novel. She’s @ms_tiahmarie  on twitter.BeautementSmall

Going from contemporary adult novels to fantastical middle grade, we come to


The Guardians Wyrd
Sometimes having a fairytale prince as a best friend can be a real pain.
Jay didn’t realise that sticking up for Rowan, the gangly new kid at school, would plunge him into the dangers and politics of the magical realm of Sunthyst. But if anyone is up for the challenge it’s Jay September. With his trusty dog, Shadow, at his side, he braves the Watcher in the dark that guards the tunnels between the worlds, and undertakes a dangerous quest to rescue the prince.
It’s a race against time – can he sneak Prince Rowan away from under King Lessian’s nose and bring him safely back home – all before the prince’s sixteenth birthday? Or is Rowan’s mother, the exiled Queen Persia, secretly trying to hold onto her power by denying her son his birthright?
Jay is ready for anything, except, perhaps, the suffocating darkness of the tunnels. And that howling …
Nerine Dorman considers herself a human doing rather than a human being, which suits her fine, because she has a broad range of interests, including music, literature, history, magic, gardening and looking after her pets (which includes a husband). Her favourite genres include fantasy, horror and SF. She is currently studying for her BA in Creative Writing through Unisa, and works for a newspaper publisher when she’s not editing or writing.




End of 2014

2014 Year in Review:
1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?

Took up archery, French, and Aikido. Started reviewing books for print media. Adopted battery hens, became a guinea pig parent. Started weight-lifting.

2. Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

tbh, I don’t even remember what they were.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No? Some family members, i think, but they are people I hardly ever see.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Not this year! Hooray!

5. Where did you travel?

This has been a travel-free year, paying the house-stuff meant not being able to go anywhere this year. Though I did mange to get away for one day to Franschhoek for the lit festival (and ice cream :D)

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

More compassion, for myself and those around me.

7. What would you like to have less of in 2015?


8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Getting some shorts published in Apex and F&SF,

9. What was your biggest failure?

home schooling, probably.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Spent this year feeling very tired, for no reason.

11. Did anyone close to you get married or divorced?

Eh, I stay out of this stuff.

12. What was your favorite family adventure this year?

Dunno about favourites, but this year we took the kids (and hounds) up the mountain a lot more, and it’s been good for them and us.

13. What was the best thing you bought?

A house in my favourite place in Cape Town!

14. Where did most of your money go?

A house in my favourite place in Cape Town! :P

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Buying my bow and rest of my archery kit. :D

16. What song will always remind you of 2014?

manic street preachers – europa geht durch mich

17. Compared to this time last year, you are:

Hmm, about the same



No, but stronger. RAWR!


18. What do you wish you’d done more of?


19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

getting upset by stupid things.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?

With my family, hugging urbuddy.

21. Who were you friends with this year?

eh, people. This is an odd question.

22. Did you fall in love in 2013?

I’m always in love.

23. Did you lose touch or regain touch with anyone important this year?

Still tentative, but looks like my brother and I are rebuilding our relationship.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Eh, hate. There are some people who annoy me more so I stay out of their sphere, but hate is a strong word.

25. What was your favorite TV program?

Hmmm, In the Flesh and Call the Midwife are probably tied.

26. What was the best book you read?

Best is relative, I have a list of favourites I’ll talk about in another post.

27. What was your favorite film of this year?

Not of this year, but the first time I’ve seen it and I loved the animation – Azur et Asmar

28. What was the best thing you ate?

Shrimp tempura (it’s been a bad year culinary-wise, i admit)

29. What made you laugh this year?

The Spawn, and the things they say/do

30. What made you cry this year?

Many things, but that’s part and parcel of dealing with depression.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 37, and I climbed the mountain and then watched The Princess Bride on my projector with some good friends.

32. What was your happiest/proudest moment this year?

Probably the F&SF sale, let’s not kid. :P

33. What was your saddest moment this year?

eh…a long series of publishing moments :P

34. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?

desperate and sad

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

BENNY LIZARD, but really I dunno, I just like how weird he looks. like a Byronic Lizard Person

36. What current event affected you the most?

So many depressing things happened this year, but because of who and where I am, few of them had any real personal effect on me, let’s be honest.

37. Whom did you miss?

My Dad. Always.

Not Your Nano day 20 – check in

How’s everyone doing?

Do you feel you’ve made some progress – either with outlining,  or writing, or revising? Have you tapped into the wellspring of the fantastic?




You’re 20 days in, and slowly growing something storywise. Words are adding up, or ideas are turning from jotted down scribbles to the outline of a novel. If you’ve been experimenting with trying new approaches to writing, what have you discovered that’s helped you?

If you have links to favorite writing sites, or advice, share it with us. I need to add to my own toolbox.




Not Your Nano day 19 – Holiday!

It’s the start of the summer hols for me and the Spawn, so take this as a free day. We’ve all earned it.



(The truth is am tired from walking to St James and lying in the hot sun. Such a hard life I lead sometimes. :P)

I don’t even know what to call this

Okay so, here’s a post that is not friends-locked.


This has been a bad year. And a good one. It has been the year I finally accepted I have a problem with depression (though if anyone reads Beastkeeper and doesn’t pick that up I will rap your knuckles with the Wooden Ruler of Major Side-Eye.)


So, things that were done while in the grip of some of the worst lowest periods I have ever had (um…can’t say, but I know that I professionally did some stuff that when I look at now in the cold hard light of medication I’m like wtf why what were you on?) are things I have to deal with now. Despite meds, I’m writing again (the 100 words Not Your Nano thing). For a while, I was pretty convinced I would not be able to write again –  and I WAS OKAY with that, because it was better than writing and wanting to kill myself every day. The Boy even told me he was terrified that he would come home to me dead. So it wasn’t  just me making up drama. I was not well.


I’m still not. I have terrible social anxiety that can lead to sleepless nights of borderline panic attacks because I said something stupid. It is ridiculous, I know, but there it is. I’m trying to fix it, but what people see in real life, or online, is not me-me. The real me is shaking and wanting to physically hurt myself over saying “wow, that’s way too many!” to someone who says they have 3 kids when a) I have 2 b) i don’t care how many kids you have if you’re happy so c) WHY did I even say that? (see it’s still bugging me).


I still hate my body, I still apologise for not being immediately perfect at everything, I still feel like a failure, but believe it or not, I’m doing better.


So, yeah, the point of this: 2015 is almost here, and I’m going to get this social thing under control. I’m going to learn to act like a normal human being and not be a complete tit all the time.


And hopefully write some more  books.