I love library book sales!

Image result for book saleI’ve always been a book lover,but even more so lately. I just want to fill my bookcases with every novel I’ve ever read and loved. In fact, I warned my children that, when I die, their inheritance will be a library of books. Is that a bad thing? No, it’s not. Heinrich Mann said, “A house without books is like a room without windows.”

I use to sell my old books at yard sales because I thought, “well, I already read these so why keep them?” Then I moved to Alexandria, Va., and discovered something wonderful… Library Book Sales. I never knew that libraries sold their old books and books donated to them to raise money to support the libraries. So now, I am not only benefiting my own mind and soul, as an avid reader, but I’m also benefiting the community by supporting the local libraries.

The problem is, I buy more than I read. I think I’ve spent about $200 in the past two years on books, but we’re talking more than 100+ books. I’ve bought classic novels, completed whole series, and found lost stories I read long ago and want to discover anew. I mean, where else can you find the complete set of hardback George R. R. Martin novels for under $20! Seriously!

“It is books that are the key to the wide world; if you can’t do anything else, read all that you can.” — Jane Hamilton

Image result for robert heinlein booksYou can find books that people seem to have forgotten about. For example, I found old Robert Heinlein paperbacks from the 50’s for 25 cents each! He is one of the premiere science fiction authors and to see his work, discarded in a box, was a shame. I haven’t read anything by him since high school, so this was a big find for me. These books are a part of the legacy we, as authors, share.

You can find practically anything at these book sales, from classics to romance, science fiction/fantasy to historical and political dramas. Even cookbooks, self-help books, and graphic novels. The best book sales are at the bigger libraries, but you can often find a few gems at smaller ones. I’ve gone to George Mason University library and a small Catholic school book sale and made great finds at both. While I search for sci-fi/fantasy novels, my wife is looking for historical fiction and thrillers. There’s something for everyone.

I know ebooks and book readers make it easier for people to read nowadays. I myself read on my phone on the my daily grind on the DC metro sometimes. Often, it’s easier than carrying a big book in my briefcase; and yet, it’s the feel, the smell of a book, that makes it all worthwhile. As an author, one of the biggest thrills in my life was holding my own book in my hands for the very first time. It’s magical.

So, this is my plug for you to go out and support your public library through local book sales. There’s a great website for finding local book sales, www.booksalefinder.com. It’ll give you a listing of all the book sales in your area. Use it to fill your library with more books than you’ll ever get to read.

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniversepublishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

Cover reveal… THE OUTLANDER WAR, Book 3 of the Forever Avalon series

After a year of waiting, I’m finally able to reveal the cover for THE OUTLANDER WAR: Book 3 of the FOREVER AVALON series. This book completes the first trilogy of this series, after almost 20 years of writing these stories.

I actually started writing Forever Avalon during my last deployment in the Navy in 2001. It took me a few years to finish writing and editing it, and then a few more to get it published in 2009. The Dark Tides was published five years later in 2014 and now, before 2019 comes to a close, I hope to see The Outlander War join them.

My thanks to Austin Macauley for taking my vision for the cover and creating it to such an “Nth” degree. A battle between modern military forces and the Knights of Avalon can clearly be seen; and the floating dragon island of Emmyr takes the stage, front and center, on the cover. It’s a great cover.

This has been a journey complete for me in getting The Outlander War published; but believe me, I’m not done yet. There is another trilogy already in the works. I’ve written the fourth novel in the series and I’ve started writing the fifth. There are still more stories for me to tell about the island of Avalon.

Below is the synopsis for the story. I hope this first tease entices you to want to read all my novels. Thanks for your support!

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It is an island frozen in time and space. For more than 3,000 years, the island of Avalon remained hidden from the outside world. It was a place of eternal magic, where the descendants of King Arthur ruled over a land filled with magical creatures, Elves, Dwarves and Dragons. The island was only accessible through a rift in the Bermuda Triangle, where mariners and aviators disappeared throughout history. No one believed Avalon was anything but a myth.

In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, in the heart of a naval exercise, Avalon reappeared suddenly, causing disruptions on both fronts. The U.S. Navy, now circling the mysterious island, wants answers. On Avalon, they fear Outlanders (as they call them) would intrude on their home; and caught in the middle of it all is Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon, Knight Eternal and Champion of the magical realm.

The Gil-Gamesh was no stranger to the outside world. He was once a U.S. Navy sailor, lost at sea in a freak storm, who found his way to Avalon. After his family followed him to the island, they decided to stay and make this their home. Now they are torn between loyalty to their new home and compassion for their old one.

The tensions build as modern technology faces off against ancient magic on an island where the laws of magic supersede the laws of science, causing mechanical weapons to falter and shut down. As military forces continue to surround the mysterious island, bringing both sides to the brink of war, ancient evil stirs from within, one that has been seeking to sit on the throne of New Camelot for three millennia.

Can the forces of Avalon hold off the military might of the outside world? Can the barrier be restored in time before the conflict grows out of hand?

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniversepublishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

Shout out for a great tool for independent, self-published authors… Book Brush!

I want to give a shout-out to a new tool I discovered that helps an independent, self-published author like me to create imagery for advertising and social media posts. I recently discovered Book Brush, an online tool for creating digital ads for books.

According to their website, “Book Brush was created specifically for authors. We offer options for ad sizes that authors need to help you create marketing images with just a few clicks of your mouse. We focused on developing options to help authors create professional-looking images quickly while keeping things simple and easy for authors to use!”

I found the program relatively easy to use and it gives me a variety of options for size, backgrounds, different patterns for your books, text tools and even some stamps for various book-related websites. They’re specifically designed to support authors.

Book Brush has been custom designed so authors find it easy to use and speedy, too. Because our focus is the author community, you will find features that you need & want! That means, our ad sizes include options for things like BookBub, FaceBook and Amazon ads and our stamp options focus on what authors use to advertise like kindle unlimited, nook and audible to name a few! We developed steps to keep your time spent on image creation to a minimum – you can create your marketing images and get right back to writing!”

The cost of using Book Brush is also relatively low. For $8 per month, you can create as many images as you need to create a campaign. That’s a boon for any self-published author. There are a lot of services out there offering to promote independent authors that can cost anywhere from $30-$50 for a year or even just a few months. Those kind of expenses add up with little to no result.

A lot of times, you are forced to do things on your own. I run my own social media, so being able to design my own versatile posts promoting my books. It gives you the option to use your own art or theirs. Once you use their Custom Creator a few times, you get the hang of it really fast. I’ve used PowerPoint to create my ads before, but this has everything right there, easy to use, and more options for the author. I haven’t tried the video creator yet, but that’s my next step.

Book Brush is a great tool for any independent author looking to establish themselves and find an audience. Be creative, be quirky, but make a statement! I highly recommend you check out Book Brush!

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniversepublishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

These anime need a second season… PLEASE!

Anyone who follows my blog knows I am a huge anime nut. If I wasn’t married with kids, you’d probably see me as an “otaku” for sure. Anime has been a part of my life since the 60’s. I mean, I watched the original anime in Speed Racer, Gigantor, and Astro Boy. It helped form my own imagination, my views on fantasy, science fiction, and storytelling as a writer. You can’t watch a Hayao Miyazaki movie and not be moved by the visuals, the music, and the story. That’s how much anime has influenced me as a writer.

That said, there are a lot of great anime series out there that only got one season. For some reason or another, the studios decided to stop after just 12 episodes. I think it’s a shame that these anime didn’t get a few more under their belt, especially for their fan base. Here’s my top five choices for renewal into a second season.

Image result for in another world with my smartphone In Another World with my Smartphone — This is really a “guilty pleasure” anime but it’s also quite imaginative in its design. Fifteen-year-old Touya Mochizuki is accidentally killed by God. As an apology, God allows him to be resurrected, but since he cannot send him back to his old world, he instead reincarnates him into a fantasy world along with a single special request. Touya uses his request in order to bring his smartphone into the new world with him. The premise sounds ridiculous, but the storytelling is infectious. You have an awkward 15-year-old thrust into life as a adventurer, engaged to four cute, yet very resourceful girls, and one his way to becoming one of the most powerful beings in his new world. Like other anime, I have been reading the light novels associated with this series, and I would love to see it brought back in anime. It’s witty and full of fantasy. Yes, Touya is OP (over-powered) but his naivety brings him down to Earth, as does his relationship with his four (nine by the end of the novel series) wives.  It’s just a delight to watch and I wish they’d make some more episodes.

Image result for knights and magicKnight’s and Magic — Most of my favorite anime’s are “isekai” or where the main character is transported to another world. This one is no exception. Knight’s & Magic is set in a world where medieval knights use giant robots called Silhouette Knights to fight against demon beasts, magical ravenous animals that devour everything on sight. The protagonist is Tsubasa Kurata, a mecha otaku from Japan who gets killed in a car accident. Tsubasa is reincarnated in this new parallel world as Ernesti Echavalier, a boy born into a noble family. Tsubasa’s previous otaku memories inspire Ernesti into creating his own Silhouette Knights in order to defend his kingdom. This one doesn’t have the sex appeal of In Another World with my Smartphone, but it does have giant robots. It’s actually weird how all the girls fall for talented genius Ernesti, but he ignores them all. He only loves his giant robots. I love how this anime infuses technology with magic, something you don’t see a lot. Most standard fantasy stories stick to the straightforward fantasy yarns, but magic and mechs is a great plot twist. They even explain how it works using scientific principles. It’s astounding. I want more, please!

Image result for Restaurant to Another WorldRestaurant to Another World — This is one of the more unusual anime, and to be honest, I only watched it recently but I enjoyed it tremendously. The Western Restaurant Nekoya is a restaurant situated in a mundane corner of an undisclosed Tokyo shopping district which offers a lot of Japanese versions of Western dishes. It opens during usual business hours though closed during holidays and weekends. But secretly it is also open on Saturdays, as on this particular day it creates doorways to another world inhabited by elves, dragons, animal men and other fantastic creatures, who enter the restaurant and partake of its exotic food, with many of them becoming regular patrons. It’s really an exotic idea, introducing Japanese cuisine using a fantasy genre to tell the story. I mean, serving Tofu and Nattō to Elves because they’re vegetarians? It’s brilliant. I don’t get into the cooking anime prevalent in Japan, but this one got to me. It’s interesting how the cook knows exactly what to make them, and it brings the different races together to visit their favorite restaurant.

Image result for log horizon Log Horizon — Okay, technically, this series has had two seasons, but it needs a third really bad, so I’m including it in my list. Log Horizon revolves around the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) Elder Tale. During the release of its twelfth expansion pack: Homesteading the Noosphere, thirty thousand Japanese gamers who are logged on at the time of the update suddenly find themselves transported into the virtual game world and donning their in-game avatars. In the midst of the event, a socially awkward gamer named Shiroe, along with his friends, Naotsugu and Akatsuki, decide to team up so that they may face this world, which unfortunately has now become their reality, along with the challenges and obstacles ahead of them. There are quite a few “ikekai” anime series that revolve around video games becoming a real world to the players (Overlord, Death March to a Parallel  World Rhapsody, How Not to Summon a Demon Lord, etc.) but they are not Log Horizon. This one is the whole package with smart characters (Shiroe), cute characters (Akatsuki) and the coolest character (Chief Nyanta). I also like how it’s not just about going on adventures, but how they have to live and survive in a real world based on a video game. I mean, they have to worry about money and food, not just fighting monsters. It’s really broad in its scope and the characters make it fun to watch.

Related imageChivalry of a Failed Knight — My final entry is, without a doubt, my favorite anime that I’m desperate for a second season. The story is set in an Alternate Earth world where humans called “Blazers” have supernatural abilities. These Blazers can materialize weapons known as “Device” which are made through a person’s soul. At Hagun Academy, Blazers are selected as representatives for the Seven Star Sword Art Festival, an annual tournament event held by the seven Mage Knight Academies in Japan to determine the strongest Apprentice Knight. Ikki Kurogane is the academy’s “F-Ranked” Blazer and is considered “The Worst One” for his low magical abilities, but Stella Vermillion, the princess of the European country Vermillion, is one of the top “A-Rank” Blazers. The series follows their adventures as they train to qualify as the school’s representatives for the festival. This series is the whole package… Romance, fighting, magic, adventure, intrigue, you name it. Everyone discounts the underdog hero who wins through skill, grit and determination, not power alone. There are great sub-stories within the series that makes this even more exciting to watch.

There are a few others I could mention here, like Trinity Seven, Hundred, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and The Irregular at Magic High School, although a couple of them had follow-on movies and another season is said to be coming. If I missed any that you want to see a second season of, tell me in the comments below. Until then, keep watching!

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniversepublishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

Violence in media… Escapism or instigator?

I never try to get political in my blog, nor in my own novels, as I think it alienates people who might enjoy my stories. That said, I need to say something about the violent mass shootings this past weekend. A lot has been said about gun control, mental health, violent video games, social media inciting violence, etc. I think there’s a lot of good points on both sides of the issue. I just wanted to take the time to put my own thoughts down, as someone who plays video games, watches violent movies, and writes stories filled with intense battles.

First and foremost, I want to send my thoughts and prayers to all those impacted by the mass shootings this past weekend. I know that’s not politically correct, but I really don’t care. People affected by tragedy need to be comforted at times like this and offering my sincere condolences is all I can do.

I grew up in a time where mass killings were far and few in between. Although the frequency has ramped up as of late, I can’t blame guns. Guns are just the tool. In my opinion, evil will always find a way. Look at London. They have strict gun laws, so instead, people use knives to commit murder. It’s not the weapon, its the person behind the weapon. Yes, we need better background checks and open communication between law enforcement and mental health professionals to keep these weapons out of the hands of unstable individuals.

As for the argument that violent video games are to blame, sorry but no. In my day, they blamed Dungeons and Dragons for poisoning kids minds when one went cuckoo and killed his friends thinking they were goblins. Video games are just another medium being attacked. Remember, they said the same thing about rock n’ roll music, comic books, certain movies and TV shows, even authors like J.K. Rowling and Kurt Vonnegut were co soldered a bad influence. It’s not the medium, it’s parenting. If parents take the time to talk with their kids and work with them when it comes to media like video games, you can create a better environment for them.

When my son was little, I limited how much time he could play on his video game system and what games he could play. If he wanted to play a rated “M” game, I would play it first to see if it was something he could play. I limited him to fantasy violence. He didn’t play Grand Theft Auto until he was a senior in high school. I just didn’t see a game like that as being productive for a young mind (my opinion).

Social media does play a part. I think social media is being abused by people to incite violence and lash out because they can do it from behind a keyboard. They think it makes them anonymous and, in some cases, invincible; but they soon find out that there can be repercussions. People are losing their jobs and anonymity through violent social media posts. We need better regulatory constraints on these social media companies to make social media more secure, and so that people think about what they type before they click send.

In any case, it’s not the medium that causes these violent acts. Whether its books, movies or video games, these are vehicles of escape. I play video games, watch anime, and write fantasy stories to escape from the doldrums of every day life. I don’t do this to act out violent tendencies that I have dormant inside me. Granted, there are some who do, but as long as they don’t hurt anyone else or themselves, then it’s fine. The key here is individual responsibility.

That’s why we have to look at the individual. We are so focused on other things (i.e. guns, video games, etc.) that we ignore individual responsibility. When did we stop blaming the person for the crime? Yes, mental health does play a part but its not an excuse in every case. Evil is evil and we need to recognize it. Did we excuse Ted Bundy or John Wayne Gacy for what they did? There comes a time when you have to see if that person lacks morality or remorse for what they did, and if so, they deserve the punishment they get.

There are so many opinions on this matter. What’s important is that all voices be heard and we come together to make informed decisions. LEAVE POLITICS OUT OF IT! I don’t want to see politicians blaming one another or fund raising off these tragedies. That’s a slap in the face to the victims and their families. Set the bullshit aside and work together to make people feel safer when they go into a Wal-Mart, school, or night club. It’s the only thing that matters.

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniversepublishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

R.I.P. Rutger Hauer, one of the best actors fans loved to watch

Related image“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.” — Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), Blade Runner (1982)

There are many actors remembers for their performances in sci-fi and fantasy films, but to me, there was no one better than Rutger Hauer. His performance in Blade Runner is, without a doubt, one of the greatest scenes in the history of science fiction films. Sadly, he passed away on July 19 at the age of 75.

Rutger Hauer was a Dutch actor, writer, and environmentalist. In 1999, he was named the Best Dutch Actor of the Century by the Dutch public. He has been in more than 104 film (three of which are currently in post-production and will be released posthumously) and 38 various television productions, as well as voice talent in two video games (he was the voice of Master Xehanort in the 2019 video game Kingdom Hearts III, replacing the late Leonard Nimoy). He has had many roles, but some, like Roy Batty in Blade Runner, are what he’s well known for.

He played the villain so very well, and yet, there were times that we felt sorry for or compassion for his character. He had a way of making you understand why his character was that way, whether it was good or bad. It was said he only took roles that interested him, so this makes his various roles a sight to see. Another interesting aspect of Hauer was that he was a pacifist, and yet he played very violent characters at times. He was born in the Netherlands during the German occupation in World War II. He stated in a 1981 interview, “I was born in the middle of the war, and I think for that reason I have deep roots in pacifism. Violence frightens me.”

Next to Blade Runner, my other favorite movie of his is LadyHawke.  Whereas Roy Batty was the villain, although a sympathetic one, Etienne Navarre was the consummate hero. He fought for his love, his friends, and his people, everything you would expect of a knight. And yet, he had many flaws that Hauer brilliantly brought out. The scene where Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer (playing his love, Isabeau) see each other briefly at dawn before they transform is one of the best scenes in a fantasy movie.

He had roles in a variety of films just as memorable, such as The Osterman Weekend (1983), The Hitcher (1986), Escape from Sobibor (1987), The Legend of the Holy Drinker (1988), and Blind Fury (1989). In the 1990’s on, Hauer moved into low-budget films, and supporting roles in major films, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), Batman Begins (2005), and The Rite (2011). He also made a return to Dutch cinema, and won the 2012 Rembrandt Award for Best Actor for his lead role in The Heineken Kidnapping.

Outside of acting, he founded the Rutger Hauer Starfish Association, an AIDS awareness organization. He also supported the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and was a member of its board of advisers. In 2013, he was made a knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion.

Hauer was one of those actors that fans love to watch, not for his physical prowess or amazing stunts, but rather for bringing his characters to life. I remember the roles he played because they were inspiration for me, as a writer. He gave life to characters just from the written word, and he did it better than anyone else (in my opinion). God bless you, Rutger Hauer, and rest in peace.

“Good guy or bad guy, hero or anti hero; doesn’t matter to me, what role I play, only the character have something magical.”–Rutger Hauer

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniversepublishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

I cry when I write, okay? It doesn’t make me any less of a man, but it does make me a better writer!

Like most authors, I consider the characters in my novels like they are part of my family. I live, laugh, and love them with every word I write. And yes, when I have to kill someone off to move the story along, I cry. It has happened to me on numerous occasions, when I write, edit, and even when I read that part of my story again. The emotion is still with me, even after all that time.

I don’t cry over the villains. I mean, they’re villains… They need to die. But sometimes, the villains win and that’s when it gets hard. These wonderful characters you cultivate and grow through you words also have to die by your hand. It’s not easy.

I know what you’re thinking… “They’re not real! You’re such a wuss! Why do you care about imaginary people?” Well, they are real to me. I breathed life into those characters with every word typed or written down. I’m not going to compare it to motherhood, or giving birth, because that’s an insult to women. It’s not like that. I just see it as a parent-child relationship between a writer and its characters.

But when you think about it, it’s all about the story. You don’t just kill someone or hurt someone for no reason. It has to go with the flow of the story and make sense. Think about the “Red Wedding” in the Game of Thrones series. That was a horrific death scene for a number of characters, but when you think about it, it moved the story along. It gave a purpose, resolve and motivation to characters like Arya and others. As bad as it was, as unexpected as it was, it was necessary.

Crying when I write makes me feel my humanity. It bridges that fine line of fantasy and reality, of what’s real and imaginary as it relates to my characters, but I’ve dealt with that all my life. I played Role Playing Games (RPGs) my whole life. Characters could easily live, or die, in these games. When you’ve played a character for so long, you form an emotional connection. It’s especially strong when said character dies because of a stupid mistake or bad decision.

Here’s an excerpt from THE DARK TIDES to make my point. I can’t read this page, even now, without a tear welling up in my eye. I guess I am an old softie at heart.

FYI to anyone reading this excerpt who hasn’t read my novel yet… Yes, I named the Shield Maidens after Disney Princesses. I have two daughters, it was inevitable.

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Sarafina and her Shield Maidens fought their way down through the keep toward the dungeon. Lord Baldrid was happy to loan her an airship and company of Elves to rescue the Gil-Gamesh. Even Usage was with them, showing the quickest route to the dungeon, bashing a few goblin
heads along the way.

Merida led the way, clearing a path with her bow. Sarafina and Aurora followed close behind, slashing at the ones still standing with their swords. Usage directed them where to go while Ariel and Snow covered them from behind, keeping the Brood at bay with their pole arms. The Elves, led by Eonis, scattered the remaining Brood and goblins outside the keep from their airship Aerdrie Faenya. The airship rained down explosive volleys from their cannons, sending goblins flying off the keep’s defenses. Archers brought down the ones still standing in an
attempt to make the keep safe for landing.

Within minutes, Sarafina and her Shield Maidens made their way to the dungeon. They found the Gil-Gamesh hanging by the chains while Caleb Guoyle lay prone on the ground. Sarafina rushed to Bryan, checking if he’s still alive.

“Ariel, get him down!” Sarafina ordered as she and Merida held him up. Ariel pointed her trident at the locks around his wrists.

“Excido Portas!” she chanted as magical energy sparks from the tips of her weapon, opening the locks. Bryan’s body went limp as they eased him down to the ground.

“This one’s dead,” Snow exclaimed after checking on Caleb Guoyle, “though I doubt the Gil-Gamesh was able to do it.”

“It doesn’t matter who killed him. The Gil-Gamesh is dying,” Sarafina said as she checked his wounds. “We need to get him to the healers quickly.”

Bryan began to stir at the sound of Sarafina’s voice. He opened his eyes and saw her hovering over him as he smiled. “Hey you …” he moaned. “I knew you’d be the one to find me.”

“Of course I would,” Sarafina said, tears welling in his eyes. “You wouldn’t stop looking for me; I wasn’t going to stop until I found you.” Bryan smiled again as he closed his eyes and fell unconscious. “Father!” Sarafina screamed, trying to wake him up. “Father! Don’t leave me… Father!”

“Come on,” Aurora said motioning for Merida to help. “We have to get him back to the ship now.” Sarafina didn’t move, she just stared at the Gil-Gamesh.

“Sarafina! We’ve got to go now!” Merida shouted at her. Sarafina nodded her head, then stepped back as the two Shield Maidens lifted the Gil-Gamesh and started moving up the stairs. Snow and Ariel followed close behind.

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniversepublishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

A Lombax, a racoon, a bandicoot and an ottsel walk into a bar…

I will admit I am a video game fanatic, of sorts. I’ve played video games since the days of Asteroids, Defender, and Donkey Kong in the local bowling alley in my hometown. I would spend more time dropping quarters into these games than actually bowling. I bought the original Nintendo game system, blowing into the cartridges to ensure a clean connection. I progressed to an N64, but then switched to a Playstation and every PS console since then. I’m not an Xbox guy, I don’t like the controller, so I stick to Playstation (hint, you can friend me at “ChiefLombax63” if you want).

This is how I relax. I play to chill out, even though it can be quite frustrating when I get stuck at a certain level. My wife likes to tease me that, when I get stuck, I can get my son to help me (and he usually does). The thing you don’t realize is just how great some of these stories are.

As a writer, I love the intricate stories they come up with, even for the most basic of games. My favorite, if you can’t already tell, are what I call the “old school” style of video games. Rachet and Clank, Sly Cooper, Jak and Daxter, and even Crash Bandicoot are my favorite games that I play all the time.

Even the most basic of characters have a detailed backstory in the game. That’s incredible, when you think about it, but also vitally important. It’s necessary for the story you’re being led into through your gameplay. It can be as simple as Sly Cooper’s family tree to something intricate like the relationship between Master Chief and Cortana. There are great writers in everything, even video games.

The other thing I love about my favorite games is the comedic banter. Everytime Captain Qwark opens his mouth, you just want to slap some sense into him (not that it’ll do any good). And whenever Daxter throws out a sexual innuendo, you can’t help but laugh, no matter how inappropriate it is. It’s what makes the games relaxing and fun to play. For me, it’s perfect.

Every writer has their own way to relax and refocus the mind for the next chapter. For me, it’s picking up a controller and battling the Blarg, an army of Warbots, and the occasional carnivorous snagglebeast. What’s yours?

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

Reading light novels brings insight into my favorite anime

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One of my favorite “binge-worthy” anime of late is OVERLORD. It has that smattering of everything I like… fantasy RPG, life in another world, minions at your beckon call, etc. It is a geek’s dream to see how a lovable loner “otaku” works to become the supreme overlord of the new world.

For background, in the year 2126, a Dive Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game or DMMORPG called Yggdrasil was released. It stands out among all other DMMORPGs due to its unusually high ability for the player to interact with the game. After an intense 12-year run the game servers are about to be shut down. Within the game exists a guild, Ainz Ooal Gown, once consisting of 41 members and credited as one of the strongest guilds in the game. Now only four of the members remain, the other 37 having quit the game. Of those four, only one, an elder lich character named Momonga, continues to play as the guild leader and maintaining their headquarters, The Great Tomb of Nazarick. He accepts the reality that his friends have their other lives to take care of and decides to stay logged in until the servers shut down on the final night. When the shut-down time arrives, however, Momonga finds that the game hasn’t vanished. Instead it appears as if Yggdrasil has been recreated as its own reality along with its various NPCs having been brought to life while Momonga has been trapped in the form of his game avatar, leaving him unable to use the normal player functions or even to log out. With no other option, Momonga sets out to learn if anyone from the real world is also in this new world with him. Taking on the name of Ainz Ooal Gown, a message to any other players, Momonga begins exploring the world in an attempt to figure out what has happened while searching for anyone or anything that could help him solve this mystery, while ensuring the safety of Nazarick.

Why bring this up? No, it’s not another praise rant for one of my favorite anime series. I started reading the light novel series by Kugane Maruyama and realized that, like movies made from books, there is more to it than they show in the series. The details left out in the anime were made quite clear in the novels. Did you know Albedo has two sisters, both living in Nazarick, and they’re freaky powerful? Or that the Black Dragonlord from the Dragon Kingdom takes the form of a little girl because her lead adventurer is a lolicon? And, the sixth floor of Nazarick has a forest and farmland growing food for the people living in the Great Tomb? It’s amazing how the little details found in the light novels fill in the blanks of the anime. It’s like a “behind the scenes” video before a movie is released.

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It’s amazing the little details you find in these light novels, from personality traits to character interactions. For example, any fan of Overlord knows that Albedo is infatuated with Lord Ainz. In fact, she’s head-over-heels in love with him. In Overlord III, we saw Albedo practically attacked him as she was overcome with lust. What we didn’t see (but what I read) was the fact that Lord Ainz had Albedo confined for insubordination for “jumping his bones” as it were. Then, before a relaxing time in the bath, there was a scene between Ainz and Albedo where she played with him as she tried to seduce him even more. It was amazing to read how these interactions between those two gets even more heated.

When I’m reading Kugane Maruyama’s stories, I hear the dialogue in my head as if I’m watching the anime. That’s just how I write. I hear the words as if I’m watching a movie or TV show. I prefer to let the characters tell the story, not relying on sentences with flowing descriptions and overused adjectives. Kugane provides you just enough in his stories, along with the wonderful illustrations by so-bin, to let you see things in your mind’s eye.

So, the old adage is true… The book is better than the movie (or anime series in this case). That’s why you should always refer to the source material, whether it’s a book, comic book, light novel, manga, or any other written material. It’s the best way to truly understand the stories as they should be told.

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

If you haven’t watched Cowboy Bebop yet, you should!

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You can’t mistake the look, the sound, and the story behind one of the best anime’s ever made… Cowboy Bebop! And, to my own shame (hanging my head low), I never watched it before… until now. When I heard they were making a live-action version of Cowboy Bebop, I knew I needed to watch the original. I’ve seen bits and pieces of the series, I knew the backstories of some of the characters, but I never really watched an entire episode. Now that I’ve binged on it, I wondered “WHAT THE HELL, ARE YOU STUPID? WHY DID YOU WAIT SO LONG?”

This is an amazing show, in more ways than one. You can’t deny the dark colors in the animation, the fluid fight scenes, great character development throughout the series, and the music. Oh my God, I love the music. It is some of the best music in anime with an infectious blues, jazz beat that you just can’t stop. This anime combines sci-fi and gangster genres with a western flare better than any “spaghetti western” or “space opera” could.

Set in the year 2071, the series follows the bounty hunters of the spaceship Bebop as they travel the solar system, catching crooks for cash, as it were. The crew are Spike Spiegel, an exiled former hitman of the criminal Red Dragon Syndicate, and his partner Jet Black, a former ISSP (Inter Solar System Police) officer. They are joined by Faye Valentine, an amnesiac con artist; Edward Wong, an eccentric girl skilled in hacking; and Ein, a genetically-engineered Pembroke Welsh Corgi with human-like intelligence.

Beyond the various stories of the crew and the criminals they hunt down, the main story arc of the series focuses on Spike and his deadly rivalry with Vicious, an ambitious criminal affiliated with the Red Dragon Syndicate. It is this story line that takes us through the entire series, and what makes it so interesting. The relationship these two had as former partners in the syndicate, the woman they both loved, and the fight that ensues between them.

To me, this is a great “starter” series for those new to anime. It brings in the “fantasy” element you expect from anime, but still has the gritty realism of a drama series. That’s what makes Cowboy Bebop so great. That realism brings you into this dark, futuristic world where the vices of today still plague society. It really hits you right from Episode 1 (or sessions as they’re known) when the targets being chased down by Spike head into a police blockade. The woman kills her psycho boyfriend, then herself, instead of falling into police custody. The blood spatter over the inside of the cockpit of their spaceship really hits it home.

Cowboy Bebop is the penultimate of what an anime should be. It’s funny, romantic, action-packed, and more. This anime makes you want to see more. It’s a shame they ended it after 26 episodes. The live action series will be an interesting take on the anime. It has been reported that John Cho, Mustafa Shakir, Daniella Pineda and Alex Hassell have all been cast in lead roles as Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Faye Valentine and Vicious respectfully. Unlike other “live-action” versions of animes, there is hope that this version will be faithful to the series. We can only hope.

But that doesn’t matter. Don’t waste time like I did. WATCH THIS SERIES NOW! It’s worth the weekend binge, I guarantee it!

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.