Superheroes have powers we would love to have, no matter how ridiculous



Superheroes, to me, are the most versatile and amazing fantasy characters. You have your “Holy Trinities” in the main two comic book universes–Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman in DC; Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America in Marvel–but the fact that you can virtually create and hero or villain with any type of power imaginable is wonderfully adaptive for writers and artists alike.

One of the first comic book series I collected was DC’s Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes. I liked it exactly because of that variety of powers. It was especially fun to read the storylines where they had tryout for new Legionnaires. You would get some of the most weird and wild powers, costumes, and names. I mean Double-Header, Esper Lass, Calorie Queen, Antenna Lad, Color Kid, Infectious Lass, and Porcupine Pete, just to name a few.

I see a lot of that wild variety in the anime My Hero Academia. While the show has some of the weirdest powers I’ve ever seen in comics, the concept behind it is so cool. A world where everyone has superpowers, or quirks as they call it. Some people have over the top, extraordinary powers, others have basic, simple powers.

For example, Shoto Todoroki has the quirk “hot and cold” meaning he can control fire and ice from each side of his body; but Yuga Aoyama, for some ridiculous reason, shoots a laser from his belly button. You know, it’s kind of out there but it makes perfect sense in a world like this. Additionally, unlike most comics, heroes are not part of the police force but licensed to us their powers to fight crime. They can’t use deadly force or even arrest bad guys themselves.

It’s such a wild ride, especially for an anime, and at times funny as Hell; but it also has a serious side. The stories cover every topic you would find in a afterschool special, but with superpowers mixed in. From teenage love to kids growing up too fast, these are the things we see in every teenage drama, but just with superpowers involved. And those powers are so freaky, and yet, they make them seem not only powerful but possible. There’s a pro-hero called Best Jeanist (yes, that’s his name) who is covered in denim from head to toe. His quirk manipulates fibers to ensnare or entangle his opponent. It seems ridiculous, yet he does it with “flair and style” like no other.

This is why superhero stories are so versatile and fun to write. It’s hard not to read a comic and find an example or inspiration in other characters. For example, if you look at DC’s Deathstroke and Marvel’s Deadpool, they’re basically the same character. Deadpool is Wade Wilson, Deathstroke is Slade Wilson. They both use every weapon imaginable, from guns to swords and daggers. Rob Liefeld, who created Deadpool, doesn’t hesitate to point out to the similarities, but won’t admit to it.

“I’ve always been in awe of Deathstroke — and “always” means since I was a child,” he said. “It might not be as obvious as it seems to me, but Deathstroke is blue and orange…and the last time I looked, Deadpool is black and red.”

Marvel did a direct ripoff from DC when they created the Squadron Supreme, an alternate world of superheroes that try to destroy the Avengers. Their superheroes mocked the Justice League with characters like Hyperion (Superman), Power Princess (Wonder Woman), Nighthawk (Batman), Doctor Spectrum (Green Lantern) and the Whizzer (Flash). Both sides admit to the ripoff, but more so as a compliment and tribute rather than a zing.

These great stories we read as kids are finally making their way to the big screen. We used to get one or two superhero movies every four to five years, but now its two-to-three annually. The technology has finally caught up to where these great hero stories can go from comic book to screen I mean, watching the finally fight in Doctor Strange looked exactly like a page of art drawn by Steve Ditko in the 70’s.

I have always loved superheroes. I even created a few of my own as a kid (Vulcan, Moonbeam, and the Speed Demons to name a few), and brought them to life in the City of Heroes video game (see my blog for more on that). We love these stories because it shows us the best, and worst, humanity has to offer in the form of entertainment.

Admit it, when you saw Captain America fending off Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet in the new trailer for Avengers: Infinity War, you were psyched. It’s why we love them!

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.


Courage is a key quality found in the true hero, whether real or fantasy

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
― Nelson Mandela

13Courage… I think the first time we’re exposed to it is watching The Wizard of Oz as a child. The Cowardly Lion showed us both sides of having courage and conquering your fears. While meant to be funny (especially as played by Bert Lahar) it was also quite educational, especially for a child. As we get older, courage takes a different form, like Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird or watching and To Hell and Back and learning about Audie Murphy. Even today, the heroics of people like Navy Lt. Michael Murphy, or the heroes of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting inspire writers like me to exemplify what it means to have the courage to stand up to evil.

Courage has been demonstrated throughout history in stories, myths and legends:  The 300 Spartans who held back the Persian Army, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the march to Selma, or Perseus killing Medusa. These stories inspire all of us to have the courage within ourselves.

However, there are trends to write about heroes that confuse courage with “having the balls” to fight, and that doesn’t work for me. There is a difference between them. A person high on PCP would “have the balls” to confront the police, head-on. Some would call that courage, others might consider it insanity (hand raised high). To some, climbing a mountain in the face of insurmountable odds would call that courageous, while others might consider it stupid. There are so many sides of what to consider as courage.

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.”
― Mark Twain

Who can say what truly lies inside someone, whether its courage or cowardice. Some people put on the face of a hero, but when confronted, that courage disappears. Others seem timid to most people, yet they are the ones to step up in times of crisis. With the 24 hour news cycle in today’s society, we can see both sides of this on a daily basis. From the heroes who rush into the fire to save lives, to the Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines who charge into battle without question, these are the examples I want to emulate in my stories.

That’s why the main protagonist in the Forever Avalon series, Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon, was a U.S. Navy Sailor. You see, I come from a military family and served in the Navy myself. I not only met and worked with many brave men and women, but I also learned the personal history of many of them.

The best example I can give is Chief Gerald Farrier. On July 29, 1967, the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal was off the coast of Vietnam, readying to launch airstrikes against targets in North Vietnam. Before the first airplane catapulted off the flight deck, an electronic circuit misfired, launching a Zuni rocket off the wing of an F-4B Phantom into other aircraft. Full of fuel and loaded with ordnance, this caused a chain reaction that ruptured fuel tanks and detonated ordnance.

In all the confusion, Chief Farrier ran out on the flight deck with a PkP bottle (a fire suppressant similar to a fire extinguisher but used for fuel fires). Ignoring his own safety, he rushed in to push back the flames so the trapped pilots could escape. He rescued as many as he could before another bomb exploded, killing him and most of the flight deck firefighting team. His courage had an impact on me, as a young Sailor, that I used him as a model for the protagonist in my own novel. Here is an excerpt from The Dark Tides that shows how the courage of one man can save many.

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Inside Flight Deck Control, Bryan rushed into a flurry of activity. McGregory was on the phone with the “Air Boss”—the officer in charge of air operations on Enterprise—while others peered out of the small windows to get a peek at what’s happening on deck.

“Clear away from the window,” Bryan shouted to the sailors. “If you don’t have any business in control, get out now!”

The sailor’s groaned and filed out as the Handler hung up the phone. His mustache twitched—a sign Bryan came to learn as trouble. “Chief, the Boss doesn’t want that aircraft damaging any others,” he said to Bryan. “It’s already clipped another helo and a Hawkeye. Think you can secure it?”

Bryan looked at the Handler, tense and nervous. He’s always relied on Bryan for the tough jobs, and he knew it had to be done. “Yes sir. Just give me Georgie, Bartman and a couple blue shirts and we’ll lock it down.”

The Handler picked up the sound-powered phone while Bryan grabbed a flight deck vest and helmet off a hook on the wall. He’d need the safety gear out on the flight deck, especially in this weather. George, Petty Officer Mike Bartman and two blue shirts—sailors who chain the aircraft down to the deck—arrived in Flight Deck Control. Bryan finished buckling his helmet as he relayed orders to his crew.

“Georgie, you drive the tractor. I want that bird hooked up and holding steady. Bartman, you guide him into the helo. Once that’s done, you two lock it down tight. Ready?”

They all chimed in at the same time. “Yes Chief!” Bryan opened the hatch to the flight deck, the wind and rain blowing them down almost immediately. Once everyone is outside, Bryan moved his crew toward the swinging helicopter.

Its rear wheel remained chained to the flight deck but its front wheels broke free, causing the aircraft to swing like a pendulum. Georgie and Bartman go around the island and start up a tractor while the two blue shirts stayed close to Bryan. The ship was listing heavily to right as huge waves crashed over the flight deck. The wind and rain added to the problem, making it hard for them to get good footing.

Complicating things even more was the multiple aircraft around them, strained against their chains by the storm. Georgie backed the tractor on the helo’s rear wheel and, with Bartman’s help, locked the helo down. Once steady, Bartman signaled a thumbs’ up to Bryan to send the two blue shirts in. Heavy chains hung on their shoulders, chocks in their hands, Bryan ordered the two sailors to get to work. He watched as the chocks were placed under the wheels and the chains are hooked on to tie the aircraft down.

Bryan was pleased with his team. He had a great group of sailors working for him. The blue shirts gave the thumbs up and they all started to celebrate, fists pumping and cheering, until without warning, things went from bad to worse.

The ship hit a big swell that caused the carrier to drop fast and list heavy to starboard. Bryan can only watch as Bartman slipped and started to tumble backwards toward the edge of the flight deck.

He acted quickly to save his shipmate; without regard for his own life or safety, he dove after Bartman. The momentum of the listing deck flung him through the air. He reached Batman and knocked him into the catwalk, saving his life, but his life saving gesture propelled him over the side of the ship into the water.

He hit the water hard and momentarily blacked out. His safety gear kicked in, though, and his vest auto-inflated. He rose to the surface and regained consciousness. The waves, wind and rain battered him around. He saw the ship in the distance. The sound of “Man Overboard” can be heard, even with the storm.

The ship started to turn around, but to Bryan it seemed to be getting further and further away from him, as if he was being pulled away from the carrier. The waves continued to beat him about, practically drowning him in its fury.

Bryan became disoriented and fear started to grip him … The fear of dying. He thought about Stephanie and the kids. He remembered birthdays, anniversaries and holidays as images flooded his mind.

Suddenly, he saw a glow in the sky. Bryan thought it was the light from a rescue helicopter, but the ship couldn’t have launched one in this weather. “Is this it? Is this the end?” he thought as the light grew brighter and brighter until it enveloped him. Bryan closed his eyes and accepted his fate.

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

Fantasy wins at the Oscars, and its just the beginning

d44c6c0cc27b86409073154c09502413After last night’s win at the 90th annual Academy Awards, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is in the spotlight, as is the fantasy genre. It was great to see a writer/director/producer like del Toro win the Best Picture and Best Director Oscar. His vision of other worlds in such wonderfully vivid movies like Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Pacific Rim is legendary.

It was great to see the Academy honor a wonderful fantasy story like The Shape of Water and a director like del Toro. It gives a writer like me the confidence in my own fantasy stories. But, at the same time, it’s also disappointing that other fantasy movies weren’t even given a chance to be recognized.

I wrote previously about how the Academy snubs top-rated movies for “artsy” movies that people have barely seen. It’s a shame that audience approval isn’t part of the consideration. The Oscars are nothing more than a night for Hollywood elites to pat themselves on the back. Even still, they do try to get it right once in a while.

I just don’t understand why there is such a disdain for fantasy movies. If you think about it, only two fantasy movies have won the Best Picture Oscar in the past 50 years–Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and The Shape of Water. At the same time, some of the top selling movies of all time have been fantasy movies released in the 50 years.

It doesn’t make any sense to me. Fantasy is one of the best genres out there. It takes you back in time, to another world, or into a magical fantasy. The mind-blowing improvements in CGI has given filmmakers the opportunity to showcase stories that would never have been done before.

Here’s a great example… In 1966, director François Truffaut brought us the dystopian science fiction film Fahrenheit 451, based on the classic Ray Bradbury novel, starring Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, and Cyril Cusack. Watching this movie, you could see the wires holding the jet packs aloft. Yeah, it was pretty bad.

fahrenheit-451Now, in 2018, HBO is remaking it into a new movie starring Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon. It looks amazing, sure to outshine the original. You also got to love the subject matter (burning books, controlling information) in today’s day and age.

John Lennon said, “I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?” With that, how can you not want to write, read, and watch fantasy?

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

Dragons, ogres, and trolls, oh my!

dragonThe creatures of fantasy, myth, and legend are as versatile as they are mysterious to a fantasy/sci-fi writer. They can be good or evil, strong or weak. intelligent or half-witted, magical or mutation. The possibilities are endless, and that’s so exciting.

As a fantasy writer, I love to research the monsters I use in my stories. It makes you wonder how much is myth and how much is fact. There are so many stories about these creatures from different countries and cultures that there must be some semblance of truth behind them… And that’s freakin’ awesome.

“There was a nice brown egg, lightly boiled, for each of them, and then sardines on toast, and then buttered toast, and then toast with honey, and then a sugar-topped cake. And when Lucy was tired of eating, the Faun began to talk. He had wonderful tales to tell of life in the forest. He told about the midnight dances and how the Nymphs who lived in the wells and the Dryads who lived in the trees came out to dance with the Fauns; about long hunting parties after the milk-white stag who could give you wishes if you caught him; about feasting and treasure-seeking with the wild Red Dwarfs in deep mines and caverns far beneath the forest floor; and then about summer when the woods were green and old Silenus on his fat donkey would come to visit them, and sometimes Bacchus himself, and then the streams would run with wine instead of water and the whole forest would give itself up to jollification for weeks on end.”
C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Look at the sea monsters that mariners have seen for thousands of years. No one believed that a giant squid could exist, and yet through modern technology, we’ve found them lurking in the depths of the ocean. This proves that there are some facts behind the ancient legends.

I know most people would be scared of a dragon, and it probably would be, but it would also be amazing to see. To me, dragons are creatures of pure magic, living to be guardians of humanity, not enemies. They are such majestic creatures that seeing one would send chills down my spine. It’s like that scene in the original Jurassic Park when they see the dinosaur for the first time. It would be that kind of feeling.

Writing about these monsters is even better, because as the writer, I can create their origins, abilities, and appearance. You always want to stay true to the characters, but adjusted to the world you create. For example, the goblins of Avalon from my novel series, Forever Avalon. Here is a deleted excerpt from my second novel, The Dark Tides, which describes the goblin hierarchy on the island of Avalon. I cut this from my edited novel, but I think it demonstrates how versatile creatures of fantasy can be.

* * *

The cavern seemed to encompass the entire center of Idlehorn Mountain… A huge pocket, like a magma dome, underneath the mountain, as lava flowed like water from the walls. It fell and circulated in streams and pools throughout the cave interior. Not only did the lava provide light and warmth for the goblins, it made it easier for them to forge a constant supply of weapons for their massive army. Goblins had nowhere to call home, except for the cave itself. They climbed along the walls like spiders in a web, able to move anywhere and everywhere throughout the cavern. They ate, slept and worked wherever they could find a rock to lean against or a piece of meat to gnaw on.

As Ragnar took them deeper into the voluminous cavern, Bryan got a sense of the social structure of the goblins. It was a society based on “survival of the fittest” mantra:  The stronger, more powerful goblins bullied the smaller, weaker ones, as an inbred form of slave labor. They were forced to carry heavy loads in the belief that it would make them stronger. The intense labor culled out the weaker goblins from the rest. Those that survived either continued their toll as slaves or they volunteered for experiments conducted by goblin warlocks and alchemists as they strive to make a goblin warrior that was unbeatable. They were a collective, striving for the betterment of the goblins and the defeat of their enemies.

At the heart of the cavern sat a throne of iron and stone. It was a monument to the machine that is the goblin empire. The twisted metal frame and jagged rock reminded all who stood before it of the pain and suffering that is the life of a goblin.

In the throne sat a brute of a beast… The Goblin King P’tah Mnenok. His skin was black and scarred, ripped and torn by battle. His face was long and twisted, with yellow eyes piercing out from dark slits. His fangs were so long that they pierced from beneath his lower lip, giving him a constant scowl, even with his mouth closed. On his head sat a crown of braided iron, a cold reminder of his black heart.

* * *

Author Gabrielle Massman said, “So deliberate writers should be careful of how they portray fantasy creatures (ahem– I am looking at all of you, dragon writers) and how they make new fantasy creatures. If there is already a mythological creature that embodies the idea that you want, then there may be no need to create something “new.” The centuries of the mythology of a creature can add depth to fantasy and are fun to explore in a more modern way.”

It’s simple… The best advice I can give you is to research your subjects carefully, but make them unique to your world. Mythology has given us all these wonderful, magical creatures to chose from. It’s how you use them that will make them your own, a part of your world, a part of your stories.

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

Virtual reality is the new, up-and-coming fantasy world for writers to explore

Image result for star trek holodeckI think the first time we thought of “virtual reality” was in 1987 when Gene Rodenberry brought us Star Trek: The Next Generation with the latest technology… The Holodeck. We saw a virtual world come to life as Commander Riker stepped on the holodeck, moving from a starship to a forest. There were many such adventures on all the Star Trek series to follow, as the holodeck was used to leave the doldrums of work behind and explore places we’ve never been or seen, from Leonardo Da Vinci’s workshop to a 1920’s crime novel.

“Reality is incredibly larger, infinitely more exciting, than the flesh and blood vehicle we travel in here. If you read science fiction, the more you read it the more you realize that you and the universe are part of the same thing. Science knows still practically nothing about the real nature of matter, energy, dimension, or time; and even less about those remarkable things called life and thought. But whatever the meaning and purpose of this universe, you are a legitimate part of it. And since you are part of the all that is, part of its purpose, there is more to you than just this brief speck of existence. You are just a visitor here in this time and this place, a traveler through it.” ― Gene Roddenberry

This technology may be pure science fiction, but it is used quite frequently to transport people to fantasy worlds. Anime does that a great deal of exploration into these alternate realities (Sword Art Online, The Silver Guardian, Recovery of an MMO Junkie, Overlord, etc.) but its got to be more than just straight science fiction. You have to know how to use the technology, whether it be holograms or a virtual computer world.

I think one of the first virtual reality movies—in my lifetime—didn’t use either one. In the 1973 film Westworld,  the rich vacationed in virtual worlds filled with androids. The virtual reality of choice here was a popular one from the 60s/70s… Westerns. The modern Westworld on HBO is more about artificial intelligence than virtual reality. I think we’ll see more about the “escapism” factor of virtual reality when the movie Ready Player One comes out.

Image result for sword art online quotes about virtual realityLike science fiction itself, virtual reality gives writers a broad brush to paint with. You can make almost anything possible in virtual reality, but I think medieval fantasy (a.k.a. Lord of the Rings) are the most popular in the genre. Sword Art Online does it best with their virtual reality game ALO (Alfheim Online). Its a wonderful blend of science fiction and fantasy that any fan can slip into easily, whether its the anime or the manga.

Overall, I think this does make it doubly hard for the writer, to ensure that smooth transition from fantasy to science fiction and back again; but, at the same time, it gives you the chance to explore some philosophical questions about reality, fantasy, and the roles games (and their storytellers) play in the world today.

When you have  horrific tragedy like the shooting at Parkland High School in Flordia, it makes one question how fast technology has advanced. Has technology gone so far that kids today are so desensitized to violence, and maybe reality itself, that they feel the need to kill others as a way of getting that kick? Its hard to pinpoint precisely where things like video games, virtual reality, take that step too far; but, I want to leave you with this quote from SAO’s Kirito to make my point.

“I thought that the closer the real and virtual world got, the better the future would be. But the more the boundary between them blurs, the more it starts to trick people.” – Kirito, Sword Art Online

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

When make believe steps over into reality, people go crazy

This has been one of those weeks that makes me wonder about the human race. I know some people can be quite gullible, but this is one of those things that makes you do a double-take. As a writer, I enjoy taking people into another world through my stories; but when those same people can’t separate fantasy from reality, I start to worry. Here’s what I’m talking about:

15081911022349-1The Black Panther movie is premiering this week. The movie is being hailed as one of the best Marvel comics movies yet. The visuals of the amazing world of Wakanda is breathtaking, and that’s where people seem to forget that this is a movie.

With all the political divisiveness in the world today, people see a country like Wakanda as a beacon for Africans, a utopia where “colonialism” never took place. They seem to forget that this is not a real place. It’s understandable to imagine a world as technologically advanced as Wakanda–with a powerful leader, incredibly strong people, and rich history–could be real. It’s something to aspire to, but these people don’t seem to realize its not real. Believe it or not, Wakanda, the Black Panther, the entire world there was conceived and created by two ordinary white guys (Stan Lee and Jack Kirby).

Lee and Kirby actually created Black Panther in the 1960’s, a few months before the Black Panther Party was founded; but these same social challenges inspired both the political movement and the super-powered African king. “At that point I felt we really needed a black superhero,” Lee recalled. “And I wanted to get away from a common perception. So what I did, I made I made him almost like (Fantastic Four’s) Reed Richards. He lives in an area that nobody suspects it because on the surface it’s just thatched huts with ordinary ‘natives.’ And he’s not letting the world know what’s really going on or how brilliant they really are.”

In the world of Marvel comics, Wakanda is a place of mystery; but if you read Twitter this past week, people act like its a real place in our world today. They’re using it as an example of what “could be” for African as a whole. That’s all well and good, but unfortunately, a giant meteor containing a super metal (vibranium) hasn’t crashed into the continent just yet.

The great thing about a movie like Black Panther is that its getting people talking about diversity issues, inclusion, and racism. The problem is when its taken to far. Sometimes, discussions like these often lead to violence, and that’s wrong. I’m a firm believer in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.–“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

I believe in that, I truly do. As a writer, we have to be that spear in the war of words when it comes to “social justice” in our world. It’s our responsibility to make examples to inspire people, not incite them. Creating a place like Wakanda is a dream, an example of what “could be” in our own world. Now, lets take those words from “fantasy” to heart and try to make them a “reality” in our world, not the other way around.

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

Magic rests at the heart of every fantasy story

Image result for doctor strange“The language of the Mystic Arts is as old as civilization. The sorcerers of antiquity called the use of this language “spells”, but if that word offends your modern sensibilities, you can call it a “program”; the source code that shapes reality. We harness energy drawn from other dimensions of the Multiverse to cast spells, to conjure shields and weapons, to make magic!” ― The Ancient One, Doctor Strange

From Doctor Strange to Harry Potter and Gandalf the Grey, MAGIC is at the heart of every fantasy story. Magic gives writers the chance to explore the fantastic, do incredible feats, and visit places we never expected to go. Its what makes fantasy writing a journey into other worlds every time I sit at my keyboard.

But what is magic? To state it simply, magic is energy. However, the type of energy can vary:  dimensional, demonic, divine, etc. If you think about it, something like “The Force” can be considered a type of magical energy. I mean, think about it?

“Well, the Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”
―Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars

This is what makes magic so versatile in the hands of a writer. We can use it in any way imaginable. There is no wrong way for a writer to use magic. It can be an ancient art practiced for thousands of generations; and it can also be a sources of energy for high tech magicians.

Psion-Storm-AN-Ep24One of my favorite anime’s is “The Irregular at Magic High School” and its use of magic. In the series, magicians tap into psions,  non-physical particles that come under the dimension of psychic phenomenon. It taps into this energy through CADs (Casting Assistance Devices) in which spells are programmed through activation sequences. These devices range from something like a wristwatch, smartphone or a gun. Even in a show like this, they still adhere to ancient magic use, like seeing spirits and using spells, to help explain their thoroughly modern system of magic.

Granted, in my day, when I thought of magic, I thought of Merlin. Today, most kids associate magic with Harry Potter. It’s such a broad stroke, when you think about it, as to how writing has change when it comes to the arcane arts. Before today, most people associated magic with evil, devil worship, or demonic power. You didn’t think about magic being a force for good under a boy with a lightning bolt scar picked up a wand. That’s how much the opinion of magic has changed.

So, whether you invoke traditional magic through ancient spellbooks or using high-tech devices, it still boils down to the ability of ordinary people to tap into extraordinary power. How you get there is up to you, the writer.

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

I can honestly say I HATE the Academy Awards because they just can’t get it right

Image result for oscar nominees in 2018The nominations for the Academy Awards were released and, once again, Hollywood proved that it is nothing like the legacy it left in the rear view mirror. I can make my point with one, pertinent fact… In 1939, a majority of the top grossing motion pictures (Gone with the Wind, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Mr. Smith goes to Washington, Of Mice and Men, Stagecoach) were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. This year, ZERO of the top grossing films were nominated.

In a year where women’s issues are at the forefront in Hollywood, the only movie with a woman as the director, producer and star (WONDER WOMAN, hint hint) didn’t receive a single nomination. Why? Why? Why?

This is why I don’t watch the Academy Awards anymore. I don’t recognize half the movies, actors or actresses nominated. Some of these movies are independent releases with no showtimes in theaters around the country except in big cities. At one time, you would hear the songs nominated for best song on the radio. Now, I recognize one song on this list and its only because of the movie trailer (“This is Me” from The Greatest Showman).

Although they added a Best Animated Feature category, the top animated film in 2017 (Despicable Me 3) wasn’t nominated. I don’t even recognize two of the films nominated and one of the films (Ferdinand) wasn’t released until the very end of 2017. I just don’t get it.

I think this is one of the reasons I watch a lot of Turner Classic Movies. You can’t compare Hollywood of today to the Golden Age of Hollywood. There are a lot of the usual comparisons (womanizing, to make a point) but  there is also a lot of class from that era you don’t see today. It’s a bygone era where Hollywood heroes enlisted to serve their country at war, entertained the troops not protested against them, and stood for something besides their own self worth.

Image result for red carpet with a bag o n their headHere’s a great example. In the old days of Hollywood, actors and actresses wouldn’t wear a bag over their head on the red carpet to make a political statement or wear a t-shirt emblazoned with the words “Poverty is Sexist” on it. Using award shows for politics is everyday today. Expect this year to be no exception, especially with President Trump in the White House. I think the best example of this is in 1973, when Vanessa Redgrave won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for Julia. She used her acceptance speech to get back at the “Zionist Hoodlums” who spoke out against her documentary, The Palestinian, which portrayed the Palestinian Liberation Organization in a sympathetic light.

She was followed by iconic author, playwright, and screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky. He said, “I would like to say — personal opinion, of course — that I am sick and tired of people exploiting the occasion of the Academy Awards for the propagation of their own personal political propaganda.” In 24 years, Hollywood still hasn’t learned anything. They’re only doing it louder via social media now.

So, as we follow the yellow brick road to “tinsel town” one more time, I hope that Hollywood had learned its lesson and go back to making the Academy Awards about the movies and us, the fans, not about themselves.

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

Is it okay to cry over movies, music, or books? Even for a big, tough man?

158979-163217I think every one of us knows a “tearjerker” when you see one. They come in many shapes and sizes. It could be a movie, a song, a television show, or even a good book. I am the first one to admit that I am a “big baby” when it comes to certain things.

I cried the first time I heard “The Christmas Shoes” by NewSong; during the final episode of M*A*S*H, and at the end of Les Miserables. One of the worst times I cried is when I was writing my second book, The Dark Tides. I have own “Red Wedding” scene (which was not meant as a ripoff to Game of Thrones, since I wrote it before I even read or watch the series) where a number of main characters were killed. It was quite heart-wrenching for me, as I had grown so fond of these characters and killing them was quite painful.

Even during my editing process, I found myself in tears every time I read those pages. Even now, it’s hard to re-read it without getting choked up, but that’s the kind of emotion I want to evoke in my readers. I want them to feel that emotional depth in my stories so it causes people to react.

“There’s no crying in baseball!” — Tom Hanks, A League of Their Own

According to Dr. Michael Bader, from his article “Why We Cry at Movies,” a wide range of phenomena are resulted from movies and books. He said, “that people repress feelings and perceptions that are too dangerous to experience, but, under conditions of safety, are able to finally begin to let them out.”

The safest place we feel is in our homes, a movie theater, even in our own car. At those moments, the repressed feelings we associate with the music, words or what we see come out.

When asked what made him or her cry in such a situation, Bader found that “it might involve a parent-figure, spouse, or friend understanding the hero, or offering protection or love. Right away, I know that these feelings have been there for much of the patient’s life.”

It’s hard to cry at the moments of pure emotion, especially for a guy. I think the old adage of a big, tough guy being brought to tears at moments like this is a “common norm” from the early days, as men were meant to be big and tough. In contrast, today’s “metrosexual” or “snowflakes” are in touch with their feelings, so crying is everyday. These are two huge contrasts, but it applies to many people today.

Image result for asuna and yuuki death sceneI think it’s okay to cry when the time calls for it. The other night, I was watching Sword Art Online II on my iPad while my wife was watching Shark Tank on TV. (FYI, if you haven’t watched SAO, you should, and spoilers ahead!) It was the episode where Yuuki, a girl with AIDs who was living in the VR realm, died surrounded by her friends and all the gamers in ALO. It was quite an emotional moment. I just couldn’t help it as the tears just poured out of me. My wife looked at me as if I was crazy, crying over an anime, but I just couldn’t help it.

I think these types of emotional outbursts helps us as cope with everyday life. We laugh, we cry, we feel joy, and we feel sadness. These are the emotions that authors, like myself, hope to bring out in people when they read my stories. I want those emotions to resonate and bring out that emotional response. It’s what makes us human.

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

Authors have always been at the forefront when it comes to race relations


Today we honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the voice he brought to equality, race relations, and civil rights. I was only a baby when Dr. King was alive, but I remember his influence growing up in the 70’s. I was a military brat, raised in a very strict environment, but race was never an issue with me.

One of my best friends in elementary school was African-American. I don’t remember his name, but I do remember him. We connected through our love of comic books. We would both draw our favorite superheroes during our spare time in class. We even cut them out and played with them like action figures.

I think that was the key to my “education” on race relations. In the comics, especially for the superheroes, race was not an issue. Captain America teamed up with the Falcon. The X-Men has heroes that were black, blue, Native American, etc. The best example from the 70’s was the Legion of Superheroes. The covered every race, religion, creed, and color imaginable and always fought for the greater good.

That’s what’s great about comics. They have always represented the best and worst of us, and always showed how good triumphs over evil. Comics teach us that it’s okay to be different, and that we should work together for the benefit of the planet.

Unfortunately, things haven’t changed since Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech. We are still divided, not united, by race. People still use labels for self-identity, persecution, hate speech,and even violence. We are not being “judged by the content of our character, not the color of our skin.”

I’m not going to get political here, pointing fingers at the left or the right. There are people guilty on all sides that are using race to perpetuate an idea or political power, and that’s wrong. We have to get beyond the name calling and find that middle ground. We can’t move forward if we’re not working toward a common goal.

Dr. King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” As writers, we have the responsibility to bring out the light and drive out the darkness through our stories. Stories emulate what’s going on in the world around them, i.e. The Jungle, To Kill a Mockingbird, Grapes of Wrath, etc. This trend has to continue, even more so today.


Even in fantasy stories, there are issues of race. The animosity between Dwarves and Elves is a great example. Although you really can’t compare that to the real world, it’s speaks to the heart and soul of the issue. J.R.R. Tolkien, was keen on representing animosity and friendship throughout the Lord of the Rings books.

Gimli Glóin’s son is renowned, for he was one of the Nine Walkers that set out with the Ring; and he remained in the company of King Elessar throughout the War. He was named Elf-friend because of the great love that grew between him and Legolas, son of King Thranduil, and because of his reverence for the Lady Galadriel […] But when King Elessar gave up his life Legolas followed at last the desire of his heart and sailed over Sea […] We have heard tell that Legolas took Gimli Glóin’s son with him because of their great friendship, greater than any that has been between Elf and Dwarf. If this is true, then it is strange indeed: that a Dwarf should be willing to leave Middle-earth for any love, or that the Eldar should receive him, or that the Lords of the West should permit it. But it is said that Gimli went also out of desire to see again the beauty of Galadriel; and it may be that she, being mighty among the Eldar, obtained this grace for him.

— The Return of the King, Appendix A: Annals of the Kings and Rulers

I’m not trying to compare race relations in a fantasy story to the real-world issues today. What I’m trying to say is before you let that hate and frustration fill your heart, before your type that profanity-laced rant on Twitter or Facebook, remember this … Be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.