Middle Earth

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Bag End

So let’s face the facts. No Fantasy writer could go through life without a visit to Hobbiton. I have visited New Zealand before, but this was in 2009, pre-production of The Hobbit, after which the Hobbiton movie set was left standing. For any fan of the movies this is a must see place. I had high expectations and these were utterly blown away.

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The view from the Green Dragon

The detail is mind blowing and having re-watched the movies since returning it has only made me appreciate them even more. You even get to have a cup of ale at the Green Dragon!

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Sam’s House

I have previously visited the London Harry Potter Studio – which is also amazing, I might add – but Hobbiton actually feels like a real village. Most likely because it practically is, with the exception of there not being anything behind the doors.

I have never been to a place so motivating to a Fantasy writer. I felt like purchasing a Hobbit Hole to live in for the rest of my life, with a pen and paper and nothing else.

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The Dead Marshes

I also spent a bit of time seeking out other locations used in the filming of the movies such as the Dead Marshes, and Fangorn Forest.

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Fangorn Forest

And this doesn’t even cover the unbelievable beauty of the rest of New Zealand. Everywhere I went I had to stop myself from wearing out my camera.

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Bay of Islands

I am continuing to work on Project Isles, though the going is slower than when I was working on the Valerious Chronicles. My blog posts may be less frequent than before, but rest assured I am still writing and hope to have something new to present to you in good time. For now, enjoy the photos of Middle Earth.

P.S. No trip to New Zealand is complete without a picture of Frodo made out of jelly beans.

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Bean Frodo

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My Top Picks – Part Three

What are my biggest influences? There are too many to cover in one post. This is part three of my series of posts to show the key books, movies, music and shows that have influenced me, not only as a writer, but as a person.

 

Star Trek:

We are at a point in time where the amount of Star Trek available for consumption is mind blowing. Not only are there five shows and twelve movies, there are comics, video games, board games, card games and books. I began watching Star Trek because of my mum, who was a big fan. It was almost routine for us to sit down and watch the latest episode of Next-Gen or Deep Space Nine and Voyager in later years. As I child I can recall watching Star Trek IV; The Voyage Home, on a monthly basis.

What is it about Star Trek that captivated me so? Firstly it was the individual characters who became a second family. Every new voyage was like going on an adventure with a band of best friends. But the truth of it is that Star Trek appeals to something in human nature. The desire for discovery, and for betterment. The federation is an almost utopian idea. A world where we have shed all of the prejudices and vices of the past. We have rid the world of poverty, of greed, of war. All that is left is a unified civilisation which strives to spread peace throughout the galaxy and learn all that can be learnt.

Despite this we see the crew of the enterprise go through all of the very same drama’s which are present in the world today. However, they are presented to us in conflicts with alien species or new space oddities. Even though the Earth has managed to find lasting peace, we still find war and avarice in the far reaches of space. Star Trek showed me that no matter what, peace is not eternal.

 

Magician by Raymond E. Feist:

Arguably this is the single most influential piece of art in my life. When coming up with a list of things for this series of posts, the first thing to spring to mind was Magician. It is the one book that changed my life. It was one of the first epic fantasy novels I read front to back and I still recall the feelings I felt when turning those pages.

The story of Pug and his journey to become a magician captivated me like no other story ever has. When reading it I recall the sensation that this was what had been missing from my life. It had everything you could ever want. There were battles, an invading alien army, magic, dragons, dwarves and elves, but most of all it had amazing world building and characters.

There is no doubt that my writing in most influenced by the many books set in Midkemia. There is no doubt my characters are influenced by the characters I grew to love from Magician. I have not recommended a book more than this one. I would never hesitate to recommend it. It is, in my opinion, a perfect example of the emotion, excitement and enjoyment that the fantasy genre is capable of. If I were deserted on an island, it is the one book I would want to have with me.

 

To see my other posts in this series click below.

My Top Picks – Part One

My Top Picks – Part Two

Recharging

It’s been a little while since I have posted. I have been taking a few long breaths following the crazy weeks that were the launch of The Tyrant’s Onslaught. As much as it was a terrific experience. I needed some time to relax.

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I was lucky enough to spend some time in the Yarra Valley and switch my mind off for a few days. Today I started writing again, chapter 14 of the final novel in the Valerious Chronicles, and it felt great. It reminded me that to create great art your mind needs to be at its best.

I feel that I am back in that space, where I can focus on getting the final book done. I have been taking the time to read some different things, a few comics (Saga is amazing!!) and some horror, which I haven’t read a lot of. It has been a refreshing change.

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Visiting the Melbourne Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary also rekindled my love of animals and reminded me to make sure I get out of the study/office more often to seek inspiration from our furry, slithery and feathered friends.

2014-09-19 12.39.59For now, back to it. Unlike the wombats I can’t sleep all the time. I have a third book to finish!

My Top Picks – Part Two

Part two of my series on my biggest influences covers some lesser known things that have moulded who I am today. I will continue to cover some of the key books, movies, music and shows that have influenced me.

The Call to Ktulu:

Music plays a very large part in getting my creative juices flowing. Music can stir emotions that other mediums fail to. In many ways it requires you to really utilise your imagination as there is no visual stimulus. Metallica’s instrumental piece ‘the Call to Ktulu’ is one piece of music that is very important to me. I am referring to the version presented on their S&M album together with the San Francisco Symphony.

Why is this piece of music so important to me? Because it could be seen as a trigger for my choice to become a writer. Sitting on a bus for up to 8 hours a day whilst travelling through central Australia on a school trip, I was given ample time to listen to my Walkman. Metallica had opened my eyes to hard rock a year earlier and my tape got a good workout. None more than the Call to Ktulu. As soon as this track began I was taken away from that bus. Transported to a world of clashing armies, knights and demons, magic and mayhem.

I played out scenes of an epic tale in my mind whilst staring out of the window at the endless red blanket that is the aussie outback. The music fuelled my imagination. With every repeat of the track the story grew larger, clearer. By the end of a two week trip, I had to pick up a pencil and write the tale. And that is what I did when I got home. That story became the basis for the Valerious Chronicles. I have no doubt that without the Call to Ktulu to keep me company, Christill and Thibalt’s tale would have never been told.

X-Men (Comics and Cartoon):

One of my fondest memories as a child was going with my mother to the local shopping centre and finding that a new volume of the X-Men animated series had become available on VHS. This was well before the days of the internet and the only way for me to watch the show was through waiting months for the next cassette to become available. It was shown very rarely on TV in Australia giving me little opportunity to tape it.

I shudder to think how many times I watched each episode, glued to the TV to watch Wolverine and the X-Men fight the most dastardly villains ever to grace the TV. Much can be said about why X-Men is so popular. Strong characters, relevant themes and great writing perhaps to name a few. Its popularity is still on the rise. For me it was the first fictional universe to draw me in and create an obsession. There are few things that I liked as a child that I am still passionate about now. X-Men has stood the test of time.

My brother collected X-Men comics which I eventually inherited. They opened up to me the greater marvel universe and showed me how much more there was than just the animated show. I came to realise that there were thousands of people out there who liked X-Men as much as I did. It was my first introduction to true fandom. One could say it was the beginning of my transition to teenage nerd.

Stay tuned for more over the coming weeks.

Fantasy Creatures Roleplaying the Real World

Anyone who is a fan of Roleplaying will enjoy this. The team at FantasyCon have created Cubicles & Careers to promote their convention and I think they really hit the mark.

Thank you to i09 for sharing this.

My Top Picks – Part One

What are my biggest influences? There are too many to cover in one post. So over the next few weeks I will be covering off on some of the key books, movies, music and shows that have influenced me, not only as a writer, but as a person.

 

The Lord of the Rings:

I will begin with the most obvious of choices. This covers both the books and the movies. I am not sorry to admit that I did not read the novels until after I’d already seen the first movie. Prior to that most of the fantasy novels I read were written by authors like Feist, Eddings and Weis and Hickman. But after watching Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring I found a new obsession.

To me the trilogy of movies summarise the Fantasy genre. It is a visual delight with set pieces and landscapes that make you wish you were born a hobbit. You have heroes and villains, elves, orcs and dwarves, battles, magic and political drama. In every sense it covers the things that make so many fantasy works what they are. The names are amazing, the characters strong. The story is one of good and evil with human drama and emotion the real focus. There is so much to learn from it.

Were it not for the movies it would have been many more years before I read the actual books. And, had that been the case, it would have been a lot longer before I decided to become a writer. But thankfully I picked up the trilogy and never looked back.

Many argue about how exciting the Lord of the Rings trilogy is. I love the books, but even I admit that there are parts where you feel like you are scraping nails against a blackboard. However I look at it as a foundation from which so much modern fantasy came. There are plenty of books which are better, but would those authors have been able to write those books without the inspiration and grounding that Tolkien provided? I don’t believe so.

Thus I attribute much of my desire to write epic fantasy to the Lord of the Rings. The writing is in every sense magical. There are lines from the books and films that make the hairs on my body prickle when I hear them. Scenes in the movies stir emotions in me that real world events fail to. I listen to the soundtracks when I write, for they throw images of Rivendell, Lothlorien and Minas Tirith into my mind. I can’t explain why, but I feel I have more of my own emotions invested in middle earth than in our earth. And I don’t regret it one bit.

 

Remember the Titans:

From an obvious choice to one less so. Everyone loves a good triumph over adversity story. Sport is one of the best mediums for it. I watched the mighty ducks and cool runnings as a kid. Practically everyone my age did. But the one movie that has stuck with me is Remember the Titans. I consider the Lord of the Rings and Star Wars to be outside of the normal catalogue of movies. They are an enigma of nerd royalty which would always win a competition for best movie. As such, taking them out of the running, I would name Titan’s my favourite movie of all time. It’s a big call, I know.

I have watched this movie countless times now. Every single time I am amazed at how much of an emotional rollercoaster it is for me. I swing from laughing, to shaking my head, to almost fist pumping in ecstasy as the movie plays out. At one point I almost struggle to hold back tears alongside the two main characters. Every time! For a movie to captivate me like that, it is doing something very right.

I have taken a lot from this movie with me in my journey to become a writer. The drama in my writing is heavily influenced by the character interactions in Remember the Titans. The varied cast of characters, though in many ways following established tropes, reminds me of what the right mix of personalities is. When I seek to place humour into my work I often think back to the lines in this movie which crack me up every time.

Most of all I am reminded that sometimes all you really need is an inspirational ending. I won’t necessarily put an inspirational ending in my own writing. But as soon as the credits roll on this movie I feel the desire to get to my keyboard and start typing. And the value of that can never be played down.

Stay tuned for more over the coming weeks.

Will Game of Thrones Lose Fans?

(Don’t read ahead if you are not up to date with the show. No spoilers for future episodes contained.)

I have heard numerous people this week cry out that they are only one character death away from never watching Game of Thrones again. This has caught my interest. I am one of those smug people who has read the books and likes to give people those all knowing grins whenever they cry outrage at a new twist. I kept reading the books after every setback, every shocking death. It actually only made me want more. 

However, I too was shocked at the end of the latest episode. I knew what was coming but I felt the same profound sense of loss that others felt. I can only tip my hat to the producers and applaud their ability to arouse such feelings in someone who knows what is going to happen. However knowing what is coming makes it easier for me to keep watching.

Those who are pulling their hair out at last weeks events and cursing to the old gods and the new have a right to be doing so. The show isn’t heart-breaking, it’s heart-shattering with a side of disintegration. But have they gone too far. How many more times can viewers be shocked before they throw in the towel and declare their constitutions can take no more? For many people I know they probably only have one more shock in them.

I am very interested to see what happens next season. Whether the producers can continue to keep the gigantic viewer base or whether people will slowly break off, nursing their wounds and saying to HBO, Not today! 

Seeking out inspiration

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Each and every one of us seeks inspiration. It may be to paint a picture, write a story, or take a leap towards a new career. Whatever the reason we all require external stimuli to get the creative juices flowing, or preferably overflowing. There are so many options available to us. Let us take the internet as a brief example.

Healsville We live in an age where by reaching into our pockets we can press a few buttons, or even use voice commands, to access practically 99% of the world’s information. The height of physical exertion required to do so is reaching for your phone. There is no other word to describe it but astonishing.

Imagine going a thousand years into the past, pulling out an iPhone, and showing someone a live stream from the other side of the planet; or heaven forbid a Meme! Likely you would be burned at the stake, or at the very least put on trial for sorcery.

Sorcery Today we take it for granted. Don’t! The internet can be a treasure hoard of inspiration. Want to paint a picture of a toucan? Google it and you will get plenty of ideas. You’ll find help and pictures to allow you to achieve mastery of the toucan portrait. Want to write a story? There is literally no end to the advice you can find online. I mean that. Whilst you are reading advice, someone else is writing and posting more, so it never ends!

However there are times when you must look to other sources for inspiration. Recently I have found one in particular to be most effective for me. That is going places.

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Now these places don’t need to be far, in fact they can even be your backyard. Take a moment to step away from the TV, computer and iPad, and go for a walk. Hop into the car and drive to a local forest. Catch a bus to a museum. Go swimming in a lake, with or without clothes. Whatever you choose, make sure you take some pictures. Because it is easy to see something wonderful and fully appreciate it. It is a lot harder to remember it accurately when you are back at home seeking to draw on that inspiration.

Everybody has a phone on their camera now. When you see something which makes you stop and stare, take a quick picture. Collect all of these on your computer and over time build a library of inspiration.

Mitchell River Now this must come with a warning clause. Do not spend all of your time taking photos and not actually enjoying the scenery. That would be pointless. The photos are only there to act as a booster for when you get back home. You need to soak in the inspiration whilst you are actually there witnessing it.

Also take care not to get carried away with taking photos at the expense of the people you are with. It is fine to take a few quick snaps when walking through the old castle with your family. It is not acceptable to make them wait an hour whilst you catalogue every turret and stained-glass window.

Montsalvat A friend of mine once looked through my photos from a trip to Europe and about halfway through asked me why I had so many pictures of doors, windows and random houses. I explained to them that I like to write and when I write, every once and a while, the picture in my imagination isn’t as clear as it could be. In those moments I open up my photos and have a quick scan. Quite often I will find a picture that sets the juices overflowing once more and I am able to get the words out just as I needed them.

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This might not work for everyone. But at the very least you will be getting a good lung-full of fresh air. Something priceless for those of us with office jobs.

Here are two of my favourite snaps that I go back to, which remind me of where I have been, and jump start the imagination.

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Austria

4 Reasons Typos Matter In Your Published Novel

I completely agree with this. First hand experience has shown me the importance of a few more sets of eyes.

Creative Writing with the Crimson League

No, not really. Not with a typo. Still, though.... Keep an eye out for them! No, not really. Not with a typo. Still, though…. Keep an eye out for them!

The dreaded typo…. I think we authors sometimes have nightmares about them. They chase us, horrible monsters spouting terrible grammar.

Truth be told, I think we all understand that perfection is near unattainable, and that the best proofreader is going to miss a couple of things. Even with multiple people going through your novel, some typos will probably slip through, and that’s all right.

It’s not my goal here to wake your inner anxiety demons.

Readers are human too. They understand. As long as the typos are few and far between and not endemic and indicative of poor editing or sloppy writing, most people are going to overlook a spare, random typo or two.

Still, the fewer the better where typos are concerned. There is no contesting that. And while perfectionism to the point of…

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