Essential writing skills: it’s OK to write square mountain ranges

It’s almost a cliche these days to say that modern fantasy writers all stand in J R R Tolkien’s shadow. Or George R R Martin’s. But it’s true. Obviously, having two middle names beginning with R is a pre-requisite for greatness in the genre. And it was Tolkien who really defined the field for so many author… More Essential writing skills: it’s OK to write square mountain ranges

A visit to Makara Beach in the middle of a southern winter

Makara beach is only about a 15-minute drive from Wellington city, on the south-western coast. It’s rugged, wind-swept, stony, and carries a stark beauty that probably typifies this part of New Zealand. It’s got an astonishing history. Peter Jackson filmed his first movie, Bad Taste, in the area over 25 years ago. During the Second World… More A visit to Makara Beach in the middle of a southern winter

Motoring magic from the wonder age of deco – part 2

The other Saturday I spent a few hours in downtown Napier, New Zealand, where the annual art-deco weekend was in full swing. For a few days the town turns into party central, celebrating the rich and famous lifestyles of 1930s Hollywood. There’s a lot of cosplay. And  a lot of tourists. I overheard a couple… More Motoring magic from the wonder age of deco – part 2

A quarter century of fun with digital image manipulation

Normally I don’t edit the photos I take, other than minor straightening, colour correction, scaling and adding copyright watermarks. But I realised the other day that I’ve been using image manipulation software in various flavours for about 25 years. So this time I thought I’d have a bit of fun. I took this photo on a blustery… More A quarter century of fun with digital image manipulation

Enjoying the art deco fantasy of Napier, New Zealand

I’ve spent a few days prowling the downtown streets of my home town, Napier, New Zealand, capturing its art deco heritage. I’ve been writing on it for years – Random House produced my first book on the history of this city, back in 1997. The downtown collection of modernist buildings emerged from a devastating earthquake… More Enjoying the art deco fantasy of Napier, New Zealand

Guess which real-world place is most like Mordor…

Last week a British meteorologist at the University of Bristol published a weather analysis of Middle Earth. Tres cool. Here’s a link to the paper: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2013/10013-english.pdf According to the report, the weather in The Shire was much the same as that of Lincolnshire – which is pretty much what Tolkien was envisaging. It’s also like Belarus,… More Guess which real-world place is most like Mordor…

Rain, rain nowhere, and not a drop to drink anyway…

New Zealand’s problem just now is it’s not very green. It’s brown. And yellow. After four summers washed out by relentless rain, 2013 has opened with a one-in-seventy-year drought. Wellington region is especially hit – the municipal water supply is at crisis level. Any external use, even a watering can, is strictly forbidden – and they’re pinging people… More Rain, rain nowhere, and not a drop to drink anyway…