This week’s mega short-story challenge

This week’s writing challenge revolves around a photo I took of the historic church at Lake Tekapo, in the middle of New Zealand’s South Island.

Use the photo to inspire a 150-200 word super-short story – a proper one, with beginning, middle, end and punchline (all super-short stories gotta have a punchline) – and post it on your blog, with the prompt photo and a link back to this blog for others to pick up and join in the fun. of course the story can be about anything, but please keep it seemly!

Lake Tekapo with its historic church.

Lake Tekapo with its historic church.

The lake really IS that colour, it’s a product of ground glacial rock suspended in the water. Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015

How I went into single combat on TV, intellectually speaking, with Antony Beevor

It’s a decade since I took on Anthony Beevor on TV, over his comments about Bernard Freyberg and his role in losing the 1941 Battle for Crete.

Wright - Battle for Crete - 200 pxI wasn’t able to get a face-to-face interview, but I was able to appear on Mike Hosking’s Sunday show in riposte to remarks Beevor made on the same show a week earlier.

The battle for Crete remains one of New Zealand’s legendary military near-misses, a battle lost by a hairs-breadth – keying into the national inferiority complex by which New Zealand was always able to punch above its weight on the world stage, but always just managed to miss the grand prize. This mind-set does much to explain the soul-searching that followed the evacuation – and the arguments that raged after the war, in the pages of history books, usually over who to hold responsible.

The fault has been levelled variously at the New Zealand brigadier running the defence of Maleme airfield, at the battalion commander on the airfield, and on the New Zealand commander, Major-General Bernard Freyberg, in charge of island defence. In 1991, Antony Beevor excoriated Freyberg, considering he had misread an intelligence signal and so lost the island. It was, at best, specious – Freyberg actually did a tremendous job, and battles don’t pivot on a single signal. Beevor also never used the primary documentation available in New Zealand.

near_runI first looked into the battle for Crete in 1999, when my publishers, Reed New Zealand, asked me to write a history of those dramatic days. They specified a short book for the general audience – not the specialist academic military-historical community – and with a maximum length of 30,000 words the text was, deliberately, intended as a brief account.

crete2I called the book A Near-Run Affair: New Zealanders in the Battle for Crete, riffing on Arthur Wellesley’s quip after Waterloo. The book sold very well into its intended audience, and was acclaimed by independent reviewers.

In 2003, Reed reissued the book with revised title – Battle for Crete: New Zealand’s Near-Run Affair. This edition also sold well.

Battle for Crete became the first volume in a trilogy I wrote covering the Second New Zealand Division from their first battles in Greece to the dramatic dash to Trieste in the closing days of the war – the other two are Desert Duel and Italian Odyssey. I did talk with Penguin about releasing them as an omnibus seven or eight years ago, but that came to nothing.

Now, all three are being reissued by Intruder Books, starting with Battle for Crete, which has been revised and is in its third incarnation. Not too shabby for any author.

The book’s out with an introductory price for $US 3.99. Get it now.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015

This week’s mega short-story challenge

This week’s writing challenge revolves around a photo I took of this oyster-catcher looking for its lunch on a mussel-covered rock.

Use the photo to inspire a 150-200 word super-short story – a proper one, with beginning, middle, end and punchline (all super-short stories gotta have a punchline) – and post it on your blog, with the prompt photo and a link back to this blog for others to pick up and join in the fun. of course the story can be about anything, but please keep it seemly!

Ex-dinosaur out to lunch...

Ex-dinosaur out to lunch…

According to the current theory, all dinosaurs didn’t go extinct 65 million years ago. The surviving branch of their family are still with us today, and we usually serve the domesticated variety deep fried with secret spices. Inspiring? Possibly. But also a little scary.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015

‘Battle for Crete': cover reveal!

My book Battle for Crete: New Zealand’s Near-Run Affair, a brief history of New Zealand’s close-run defeat on Crete in 1941, is being republished as part of a new military series by Intruder Books. It’s the third time this title’s been released – and this time you’ll be able to get it instantly, on Kindle. Here’s the cover.

Wright - Battle for Crete - 450 px I really like this. To me, it echoes the colour tonings and style of the 1940s – but with a modern twist.

I wrote this book in 1999, and it was published in 2000 by Reed NZ Ltd under the title A Near-Run Affair. Reed republished it in 2003 with a new title, which has been retained for the mildly revised Intruder Books edition. This new edition is available at an introductory price of $US 3.99 and marks the first time it’s been available in over a decade. It follows Intruder’s re-issue of three earlier titles in my military history series. Don’t forget to check ’em out – here. If you haven’t got a Kindle, you can get a Kindle reader for whatever device you own, here.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015

Peter Jackson’s re-definition of awesome – the Gallipoli diorama, close up

Last weekend I visited Sir Peter Jackson’s giant diorama of New Zealand’s attack on Chunuk Bair at the height of the Gallipoli campaign in August 1915. Giant? You betcha. With 5000 custom-posed 54-mm figures, individually painted by volunteer wargamers from around New Zealand, the only word is wow! Here are my photos.

The only word is wow... Close-up I took hand-held with my SLR...

The only word is wow… Close-up I took hand-held with my SLR…

Tail of the diorama - which filled an immense room.

Tail of the diorama.

The whole thing was assembled by Weta Workshop. The project was overseen by a former head of the Defence Force  Lt-Gen Rhys Jones. The models, made for the project by Perry Miniatures, include special custom figures – William Malone, commanding the New Zealand forces atop the hill, is recognisable. So too are some of the artists who contributed. Blogging friend Roly Hermans – ‘Arteis’ – is one of them.

So for me there was a good deal of anticipation – but my wife and I missed the opening by a day when we first visited Jackson’s First World War exhibition, and it was only last weekend we finally got to see it.

To say I was blown away is an understatement. The hills of Chunuk Bair – an exact replica of the real terrain – stretched out before me in 1/32 scale, studded with foliage and people.  The model was enormous. I scrabbled to re-set my camera. What particularly blew me away was the attention to detail – including no-holds-barred representations of casualties. Woah!

This is just a PART of the whole thing. Wow!

This is just a PART of the whole thing. Wow!

Another section of this immense diorama.

Another section of this immense diorama – all behind glass, of course.

The battle for Chunuk Bair has long been considered New Zealand’s defining moment – when we ‘came of age’ as a nation. As a historian I dispute that those of the day saw it that way immediately – it emerged afterwards. But that’s not to dispute its validity. The idea re-emerged in the 1980s, in part on the back of Maurice Shadbolt’s play ‘Once On Chunuk Bair’, which rehabilitated the image of Malone; but also buoyed by New Zealand’s re-invention of itself as a proper nation on the world stage – rather than a dependent appendage of Britain.

Here's Colonel William Malone - custom-modelled - just behind the ridge at Chunuk Bair. Another hand-held closeup I took with my zoom...

Here’s Colonel William Malone – custom-modelled – just behind the ridge at Chunuk Bair. Another hand-held closeup I took with my zoom, provoking various depth-of-field issues…

Chunuk Bair was the main effort to break out of the lodgement above Anzac Cove and reach the forts on the far side of the Gallipoli peninsula – the original first-day objective of the landings back in April 1915. It failed, though only just. At the time, Malone became scapegoat – and the near-miss aspects of the battle fed into the deep national inferiority complex of the day (‘most dutiful of Britain’s children’ rather than ‘confident emerging nation’), creating a mythology of New Zealand – especially militarily – as a nation of also-rans.

Another hand-held close-up of the diorama...

Detail from another hand-held close-up I took of the diorama…

A friend of mine, Chris Pugsley, subsequently dislodged that idea altogether in his book Gallipoli (Reed 1985) – which remains in print today and where he defined not just a new view of New Zealand’s Gallipoli campaign, but a new way of approaching military history.

Some of the nearly 5000 miniatures - all individually painted and many custom-posed - that feature in the diorama.

Some of the nearly 5000 miniatures – all individually painted and many custom-posed – that feature in the diorama.

I covered Gallipoli myself, later, in my book Shattered Glory (Penguin 2010), which looked at the way the war experience destroyed innocence. And one of the vehicles for that, on Gallipoli, was Chunuk Bair. So it was doubly amazing for me to be able to look at this amazing diorama, and think back to the accounts I’d read of the time – the desperation, the heroism, the arguments, and the dangers of a battlefield that could be swept from end to end by machine gun fire.

Quite apart from the fact that we’ve now got this totally awesome model of it – right here in New Zealand.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015

Another super-short mega story writing challenge

Here’s another super-short story writing challenge.

Use the photo to inspire a 150-200 word story – a proper one, with beginning, middle, end and punchline (all super-short stories gotta have a punchline) – and post it on your blog, with the prompt photo and a link back to this blog for others to pick up and join in the fun.

Sunset over Wellington district after a storm.

Sunset over Wellington district after a storm.

As for the picture itself – well, it’s a photo I took of the sunset sky after an storm swept the Wellington district. The turbulent conditions generated an unprecedented display of colour and cloud. Are you ready? Set… Go!

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015

A dieselpunk short story writing challenge

Here’s another super-short writing challenge.

Use the photo to inspire a 150-200 word super-short story – a proper one, with beginning, middle, end and punchline (all super-short stories gotta have a punchline) – and post it on your blog, with the prompt photo and a link back to this blog for others to pick up and join in the fun.

Coffee cart in an Airstream caravan, Napier, New Zealand - open for business...

Coffee cart in an Airstream caravan, Napier, New Zealand – open for business… http://www.mjwrightnz.wordpress.com

This is an Airstream caravan, made into a coffee cart, in Napier, New Zealand. Usually I don’t suggest topics, but this time – well, this cart is SO Flash Gordon dieselpunk SF era it’s not funny. And so that’s today’s theme. Yup – Flash opens a coffee bar on Mongo… (well, not really…)

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015