Avalon is a great place for fantasy writers (and readers) to explore

avalon_by_iribel[166]Why Avalon? Why indeed … I’ve been asked this question many times. Why did I choose Avalon, Camelot, Merlin, King Arthur and the whole Arthurian legend as the basis for my novels in the Forever Avalon series?

I am not the first, nor nowhere near the best, at interpreting the Arthurian legend for my prose. From myth to legend, reality to fantasy, Avalon will always be considered a place of magic. When you think of games like Dungeons & Dragons, you can’t help but think of Excalibur, wizards, dragons and other aspects from the many myths and legends we associate with Avalon.

Avalon, Ynys Avallach, the Island of Apples … These are all part of the legend of Avalon. It is an island where the pagan god Avalloc sired nine sisters with mystical powers, including Morgen (better known as Morgana le Fay). It is where Excalibur was forged, the home of the Lady of the Lake, a place where all things are provided.

I’m rather fond of the Celtic mythos, that Avalon is an island of magic that exists out of time and space. The Celts believed in the Otherworld, and for them, Avalon represented the land of the mythical and mystical. It existed outside of the normal world but was accessible from it. Time moved at a different pace and islands were specifically associated with being gateways into the Otherworld. Sound familiar? It should as that is what I based Avalon in the Forever Avalon series on.

In fact, most of the islands off the coasts of Britain were known as Isles of the Dead to the early Celts:  Lundy, the Isle of Man, the Scilly Isles, have all been associated with being the real life location for Avalon. So is Glastonbury, where at one time, the large earthen mound known as Glastonbury Tor was considered an island as it was once surrounded by marshland.

The association of Glastonbury with Avalon and the Arthurian legends came about in a curious way. In 1190, enterprising monks at Glastonbury Abbey claimed to have discovered the grave and bones of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. The discovery of the burial occurred when the new abbot of Glastonbury, Henry de Sully, commissioned a search of the abbey grounds shortly after the reign of King Henry II. At a depth of five meters (about 16 feet) the monks discovered a massive tree trunk coffin and a leaden cross bearing the inscription, “Hic jacet sepultus inclitus rex Arthurus in insula Avalonia” (“Here lies renowned King Arthur in the island of Avalon”).

There was even a formal burial service held at Glastonbury Abbey, attended by King Edward I. Glastonbury was also heavily associated with early Christianity, adding to its ties to the Arthurian legends. Joseph of Arimathea was said to have brought not only the Holy Grail to Glastonbury, but is also responsible for a sacred tree that still grows there today. Legend has it that as he set foot on Wearyall Hill just below the Tor and, in his exhausted state, thrust his staff into the ground and then rested. By morning, his staff had taken root, and turned into a strange oriental thorn bush which is now known as the Glastonbury Thorn.

Even the tower atop Glastonbury Tor is steeped in mythology as it is said to be the entrance to the underworld. All of these have, in one way or another, tied Glastonbury with Avalon. Its moments like this that has truly ingrained the legend of Avalon in our world history.

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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 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

 

It’s St. Patrick’s Day! Time to drink green beer and see some leprechauns

As we enter March “Like a Lion” (How about that snow!) we reach the holiest of days for Irish-Americans, alcoholics and fantasy role-players alike … St. Patrick’s Day. As such, I am reminded of a great book I read as a young adult in the 80’s. Hobgoblin by James Coyne was published in 1981 at the height of the popularity of Dungeons & Dragons. It is often compared to another novel, Mazes & Monsters by Rona Jaffe (and an equally fun movie starring Tom Hanks, believe it or not), but Hobgoblin is unique because of its Celtic mythological influence.

Hobgoblin is just a game. Ballycastle is just a house.

Scott is just a lonely teenage boy….

Until one Hallowe’en, a Hobgoblin kills everyone he loves.

hob3The story revolves around Scott Gardiner, a teenage boy who becomes obsessed with “Hobgoblin,” a fantasy role-playing game based on Irish mythology, as his life “in the game” and “in reality” slowly blend. Like Mazes & Monsters, Coyne treats the playing of role-playing games as indicative of deep neurotic needs, of which I can attest to from my formative years of non-stop D&D. In these books, the protagonist is, or at least appears to be, suffering from schizophrenia or some analogous condition as the attainment of mature adulthood is accompanied by the abandonment of role-playing games. Like Jaffe, Hobgoblin was published at the height of D&D‘s popularity and the intense media coverage of the “Egbert steam tunnel” incident (i.e., urban myths wherein role-playing gamers enacting live action role-playing games perish, often in the utility tunnels below their university campuses).

You see, I experienced some of the same when I was playing D&D. The whole “D&D will make it so you can’t distinguish from fantasy and reality” line was drilled into me constantly. Fortunately, I didn’t listen, but that’s beside the point. D&D was a great tool for me, as an author, to grow my imagination and create the world of Forever Avalon.

As for Hobgoblin, what I love about this book was how it used legends and fantasy characters from Celtic mythology. I never knew about these characters, like Brian Boru, Morrigan, and Lugh. I think it was this novel that led me to the idea in my Forever Avalon novels to bring all the different mythos together onto one magical fantasy island (no pun intended).

In researching mythology for Forever Avalon, I decided that if I was to bring all magic to one place, the mythologies were not all British, but rather from all mythological creatures around the world. Dwarves from Scandinavia and Germanic, Faeries and Elves from Ireland, Scotland and Wales, Giants from the Russian steppes, etc.

I bring this up because that’s what I learned from Hobgoblin. When I started playing D&D, the game focused on a variety of mythologies, including Greek (when it came to Clerics and the Gods they served, that is). But when we played, I think many focused on the fantasy and didn’t divide up magical creatures from this mythos or that mythos.

Hobgoblin showed me that myths do have a cultural and ethnic origin and we must respect those origins. For example, when I wrote The Dark Tides, I created Togo, a small island off the coast of Avalon, where the descendants of African slaves made a home for themselves. I had to research African culture and mythology, everything from Aido Hwedo, the Rainbow Serpent, and the legend of the Orisa and Eledumare. I learned so much and also how similar many myths are to each other.

When you look across multiculturalism, the stories, myths and legends have an almost universal appeal. They also have many similarities. For example, cultures around the world tell stories about a great flood. In many cases, the flood leaves only one survivor or group of survivors. For example, both the Babylonian “Epic of Gilgamesh” (ha, if you read my books you’ll understand why this is funny to me) and the Hebrew Bible tell of a global flood that wiped out humanity and of a man who saved the Earth’s species by taking them aboard a boat, i.e. the story of Noah (and not the Russell Crowe movie that absolutely bombed). Similar stories of a single flood survivor appear in Hindu mythology as well as Greek and Aztec mythology.

Our stories are what unify us as the human race. So raise a pint this St. Patrick’s Day and toast Hobgoblins, Brian Boru and all the leprechauns we’ll see after too many beers. After all, there may be another story just waiting to be told.

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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 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

The long and winding road of a writer

fbac5ca9ef50d6449e3d12cd77372890My journey as a writer has been a long and tumultuous one. It’s something I never really considered for myself as a teenager, or even through my 20+ year Navy career. I wanted to talk to you about my journey to hopefully explain how being a writer can come right out of left field, until you realize that it was meant to be.

Set the “Wayback Machine” for 1976, Sherman. As a high school freshman at Phillipsburg High School, NJ (Go Stateliners!) I was focused on art. My goal was to be the next Jack Kirby. I wanted to work for Marvel or DC, write and draw my own comic books. I drove my parents and my teachers crazy with my constant comic book drawing when they were trying to teach me pastels and painting. While I was in high school, I also joined the school newspaper and yearbook staff, learning some valuable skills that would help me later in life.

After high school, I enrolled in the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. Again, my goal was to hone my art skills to become a comic book artist, but that never came to fruition. Trying to live away from home for the first time, I wasn’t able to manage money or my time properly. I had no choice but to drop out of school, even enrolling at the University of Pittsburgh. There, I joined the college radio station and learned some more valuable skills for down the road. Yet again, I mismanaged things and was forced to drop out and return home to Jersey.

I look back at that time and wonder where I went wrong. I would love to talk to my younger self and tell me it’s going to be all right, but it didn’t seem like it at that time. I moved back into my parent’s house with no job prospects, no college either. So what to do?

My Dad, the 22-year career Marine, pointed me right towards the recruiters’ office. I knew I didn’t want to join the Marines, like my Dad and brother. The Army tried to push infantry and tank driver on me for big bonuses. The Air Force wasn’t really interested as I was looking at non-technical jobs. The Navy, on the other hand, gave me what I was looking for.

I joined the Navy as a Journalist, where my earlier training in broadcasting and writing came in handy. I attended the Defense Information School, or DINFOS, and became what we affectionately call a “DINFOS Trained Killer” with typewriter in hand. After 23 years, I turned that training into a military career.

During my time as a military journalist, I’ve written hundreds of articles that were published in military publications, local newspapers and even a few national newspapers. Seeing your byline in the Miami Herald and Navy Times can be a life-changing experience for a young journalist. It was also during that time that I started working on my novel, Forever Avalon.

This may seem like a round-about way of getting to the fact that I was writing all along, but it really wasn’t. When I was in high school, I augmented my drawing time with writing, creating stories to go with my characters or writing for the school newspaper. In college, I was forced to do only art and that, I feel, made me lose my way because I wasn’t able to write. In the Navy, I wrote mostly press releases and news stories but found the time to write feature stories in addition to starting my novel.

All that time I spent on other things that I was mediocre to average, when writing kept pushing and jabbing at me until it finally broke through. I am a writer and I’m damn proud of it. I will keep writing until you pry the keyboard from my cold, dead hands. (Wow, I should put that on a t-shirt!)

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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 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

Like fantasy without magic, movies without memorable music totally miss the mark

beauty-and-the-beast2Most people remember their favorite movies through unforgettable scenes or great quotes. There are many, though, that you remember from a few notes of music or humming a tune. Add to that, there are so many memorable songs and music from movies, you don’t know where to start.

There’s a great scene in the movie The Holiday where Jack Black’s film composer character runs through a litany of movies and music and how they changed cinema. It’s what made me want to look at some of my favorite movie soundtracks, composers and songs. I hope they’re some of your favorite too.

First and foremost, I’ll start right off with John Williams who is, without a doubt, the greatest composer that movies have ever scene. From Star Wars and Indiana Jones to E.T. and Harry Potter, he has written some of the greatest movie soundtracks EVER. His music has been heard by generations who will always know the movie by the chord struck by the orchestra. He is the Gandalf of movie soundtracks.

Next thing I’ll throw out there is any Disney animated movies. Disney has a history of making the best animated films and, with it, unforgettable songs and music. From Snow White singing “I’m wishing” in that high-pitched voice of Adriana Casrlotti to Indina Menzel “Let it Go” from Frozen,  Disney has brought the best singers and songwriters together for great movie soundtracks. The best part is that these are songs you sang as a kid and with your kids too.

rocky_horror_throne_screencapNext is great movie musicals. I’m partial to West Side Story and The Sound of Music because I grew up on these movies. However, my all-time favorite has to be The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I was a teenager going out every Friday and Saturday night to dance the Time Warp, ask “Whatever Happened to Saturday Night” and wonder if we’re having Meatloaf fir dinner. The music is intoxicating and holds your heart and soul captive like a trans-sexual transvestite from Transylvania.

Lastly, I want to give a shout out to one of the greatest rock-n-roll bands of all time and the music that holds a place near-and-dear to us geeks. Queen has written songs for two classic sci-fi/fantasy movies … Highlander and Flash Gordon. If you hear the opening chorus of either one of these movies opening songs, you know exactly what it is. They are that recognizable, especially with Freddie Mercury’s incredible vocals. At the same time, I have to give a shout-out to the greatest movie singer of 80’s movies, Kenny Loggins. “Danger Zone” from Top Gun, “I’m Alright” from Caddyshack, “Footloose” from Footloose and so many more. Kenny Loggins was THE soundtrack of a generation of great movies.

No matter what your favorite movie or music, I know I only touched on a few favorites here. There are so many more to add and not enough space to write about them. All I can hope is that by reading my blog here today, you now have a song stuck in your head. Gotcha!

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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 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

 

Doctor Who will always be the heart and soul of sci-fi/fantasy adventures

all_There are many TV shows, movies and books that are considered the “standard” by which all others are compared. There are many that try to lay claim to that title in the realm of science fiction, fantasy and adventure genre. Lord of the Rings, Star Trek and Star Wars are among the top contenders for those top spots. To me, none can compare to what I consider “the standard” and that is Doctor Who.

The Doctor crosses multiple genres and reflects the heart and soul, the good and the bad, of humanity in its stories, characters and vision from it’s conception in the 60’s to today. Though he’s a 2000-year-old Timelord from Gallifrey, his time among humans allows him to tell us when we’re right and when we’re wrong. That’s what makes him something beyond time and space. In one sentence, he can cross that boundary with such little effort or ease.

“I hate to read about good wizards in fairy tales; they always turn out to be him.” — River Song

It’s sentiments like that, simple yet profound, which shows the range of Doctor Who writers. They can tell his story throughout our history in a single sentence. That’s powerful. And yet, at the same time, the words of the Doctor can still the night air, take your breath away and bring armies to their knees.

“Great men are forged in fire, it is the privilege of lesser men to light the flame.” — War Doctor

Those words were spoken by the late John Hurt. Though he only played the Doctor once, in that short time, he embodied the spirit of the Timelord perfectly like all those actors who portrayed the Doctor before him. That says something about the actors picked to portray him but also to the writers who have created stories from original mythology as well as moments in history. The Doctor has been present at the destruction of Pompeii, with Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest, and he’s saved the Kings and Queens od England on more than one occasion.

One of the best Doctor Who stories was “The Girl in the Fireplace” from 2006. Take Madame De Popmpadour and have a living spaceship break through the time/space continuum to get her brain to run the ship. As crazy as it sounds, this episode showed the romantic, loving side of the Doctor. Here was a woman who took “the slower path” just to see him again. The chemistry between the Doctor and Reinette is so real, you can’t help but fall in love. There’s also a point, like so many in the series 50 year history, where you understand why the Doctor is feared as much as he is loved.

Young Reinette:  “Monsieur, be careful!”
The Doctor:  “It’s just a nightmare, Reinette, don’t worry, everyone has nightmares. Even monsters under the bed have nightmares!”
Young Reinette:  “What do monsters have nightmares about?”
The Doctor:  “Me!”

And now, Peter Capaldi, the latest incarnation of the Doctor, is ending his run at the end of this season. So now the question begs to be asked, who will take his place? Who will step into the mantle and become part of history. My vote is for Haley Atwell of Agent Carter. Just to see the “girl banter” between her and Missy (Michelle Gomez) would be priceless.

The Doctor is,without a doubt, one of the greatest characters ever created. He is in books, television, movies, cartoons, comic books and more. You can find pictures of the Tardis (Time and Relative Dimension in Space for the non-initiated) on practically every continent. He is a part of the many cultures around the world. That’s what makes Doctor Who an undeniable part of history, which is exactly where he (or she) belongs.

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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 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

 

Magic has brought us some of comics best characters via Avalon

jld01You can always find that some of comics best characters were created by or empowered by magic:  Shazam, Zatanna, Scarlet Witch and Doctor Strange just to name a few. As a fantasy writer, these magical characters have inspired me in many ways. Many of them have their origins in  the Arthurian legends, which is where I based the Forever Avalon series.

My favorite has to be Etrigan the Demon. First off, he was created by the legendary Jack Kirby. That is enough of a pedigree for me, but his origin is way cooler. Merlin bound the demon Etrigan to Jason Blood, a knight of King Arthur’s court. He’s immortal and works in Gotham City from time-to-time. Cool pedigree, wicked origins from the Arthurian legend and he speaks in rhyme. I mean, you can’t call yourself a comic book geek if you can’t recite the spell to release the demon.

“Gone, gone, the form of man; arise the demon Etrigan!” 

Recently, the magical side of DC has come out through its TV franchises. Matt Ryan as John Constantine was the best casting decision ever made. He is all that is John Constantine, that Keanu Reeves wasn’t, and a bag of chips. He’s had a guest shot on Arrow and took the lead in the Justice League Dark animated movie. I can’t wait to see more of him, especially if Guillermo del Toro still moves ahead with a live action Justice League Dark movie.

Marvel’s also had its fair share of bringing magical heroes up with a touch of Arthurian legend. If you want to read a great Avengers series, The Morgan Conquest is a classic. Morgan (not Morganna) le Fay casts a spell that changes the entire planet into her own magical realm with the Avengers subjected as her own imperial guard. Even their names are more medieval (Captain America is now Yeoman America, She Hulk is the Jade Giantess, you get the idea).

They also have a cavalcade of superheroes tied to the magic of Avalon, Merlin, and more. Dane Whitman, The Black Knight, wields the Ebony Blade (forged in Camelot from a meteorite by Merlin). Captain Britain’s powers come from Merlyn (spelled different but supposedly the same man) as a protector of the multi-verse in the Captain Britain Corps. Union Jack was empowered by the Spirit of Pendragon, a magical energy in the form of Sir Lancelot, to defend the British Isles. You can’t shake a stick in the UK in the Marvel Universe without hitting a magic-related superhero or villain for that matter.

Though magic is the tie that binds all these great characters together, is the artists and writers that made them so memorable. Some of their origins are now part of history, of legend, and that makes them immortal. Like Avalon, they will live on FOREVER.

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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 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

 

It’s not parents, but rather Hollywood, that just don’t understand

hollywood_politicsI can’t begin to understand actors, actresses and other “entertainers” getting political. I understand that a lot of them don’t like the President or his policies, but using their  position as a platform is often suspect. They’re using social media, television and other forms of digital media to promote their discourse. The problem is that they’re alienating the part of the country that disagrees with them. The people they’re calling “deplorables” are the same people who help them earn a living by buying tickets to a movie or downloading their music. It doesn’t make sense for them to “bite the hand that feeds them” as it were.

Hollywood and political diatribe have been walking side-by-side since even before the movies learned to talk. Charlie Chaplain was famous for poking fun at the government from both his silent movies (kicking an immigration official in “The Immigrant”) and especially when he did his first “talkie” (watch his speech from “The Great Dictator” and you’ll know why). Everyone knows about Jane Fonda and her visit to North Vietnam during the Vietnam War and how Vietnam Vets still hold it against her today.

So what’s different about today? I think that you can easily point to social media. With so many platforms to make a statement, artists use it to fuel the fire, and sometimes, it gets way too hot. Don’t get me wrong, this is America and everyone has the right to their own opinion. Freedom of Speech is an essential part of what makes America great, something that many other countries don’t have.

There are some artists that chose to make a statement and some who don’t. Take the Broadway musical “Hamilton” as an example. When Vice President Mike Pence decided to take his family to see the show, the cast decided to take the time to make a political statement against him and President Trump. Some people applauded their bold statement while others returned their tickets and vowed never to see the show. Did it affect their ticket sales? No, not really.

Then there’s the Dixie Chicks … remember them? They spoke out against President Bush and the Iraq War while performing overseas. Their records were burned, crushed and discarded. Some radio stations refused to play their music. While most music and media applauded their bravery for speaking out, the fans did not. They are no longer together and rarely perform, except when they want to make a stand for something else.

So there are many pros and cons for artists to get political. As a writer, I try to stay in the world of fantasy and avoid politics. The most political thing I did was in The Dark Tides where I named Chief B’Rak of Togo, a colony of former African slaves, after President Barrack Obama. I was going to name the Goblin King after him, but my wife thought that “crossed the line” and I agreed, so I changed it.

The one thing I do agree with is a statement made by actor Mark Wahlberg. In an interview, he said “A lot of celebrities did, do, and shouldn’t,” when speaking about politics. “They might buy your CD or watch your movie, but you don’t put food on their table. You don’t pay their bills. A lot of Hollywood is living in a bubble. They’re pretty out of touch with the common person, the everyday guy out there providing for their family.”

You can see who follows this philosophy by looking at who is out there speaking up and who is not. There are many who realize that people want actors and musicians to entertain them, not preach to them. Look at how successful politically charged movies have been over the past few years. I remember when anti-Iraq war movies came out, one after the other, at the end of the Bush Administration. They had A-List actors in them (Tom Cruise, Robert Redford and Meryl Streep in “Lambs for Lions” comes to mind) but they barely made a dent at the box office.

There is a time and a place for political commentary. Movies and TV shows like “Lone Survivor” and “24” address these charged political issues like terrorism, immigration and religious tolerance without taking sides or making a speech. They use it to entertain and let the audience make their own determination. That’s the fine line that other artists need to understand before they decide to go the way of the Dixie Chicks.

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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 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

The 80’s rocked, in more ways than one, thanks to movies like Krull

I can honestly say I loved the 80’s. The 80’s were the decade that started our trek into the new millennium. Think about all the technology that came out of the 80’s:  Personal computers, cell phones, cable TV, video games and VCRs. Add to that the music, movies and television, Dungeons and Dragons … The 80’s was where it all started.

The biggest impact on me from the 80’s was the movies. Not just The Empire Strikes Back, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Conan the Barbarian and Raiders of the Lost Ark, but cult classics as well, like The Beastmaster, Dragonslayer and Krull. These are movies that I can watch again and again and never get tired of them.

krullMy children just don’t understand my infatuation with these classics. They look at the special effects and laugh at how bad it is. True, it’s not the same as the CGI of today, but it has a quality of quasi-realism and camp that today’s movies lack. These were movies done on location and large sound stage sets, not shot completely in motion-capture or green screen, with robust orchestral music to drive the story.

Let’s take Krull, the sci-fi/fantasy adventure, for example. It’s about a conqueror from space called The Beast and his army of Slayers as they try to enslave the planet of Krull. The adventure is a love story between a young prince, Colwyn, and his new bride, Lyssa, after she is captured by The Beast. Colwyn recruits a rag-tag group of thieves and escaped prisoners to rescue his princess and save their world. It is a wonderful mix of sci-fi with magic, fantasy and adventure thrown in. In case you haven’t noticed, I love this movie.

The Slayers were strange creatures with interesting weapons. Their swords had long hilts. They fired an energy weapon from one side of the hilt then flipped it around to use the sword in hand-to-hand combat. They could scale walls with ease, hide underwater and, when they died, a hideous worm-like creature broke out of the armor and dove underground. They had a death-howl that I have yet to hear repeated in other movies. Like I said, quite unique.

The real star of this movie was something you only saw briefly at the end, the Glaive. It really is such a simple weapon, five retractable blades in what looks like a metal starfish. It simplicity in its design makes it very cool, especially how Colwyn used it to fight The Beast. He controlled its flight with his mind, reflecting the Slayer’s and The Beast’s blasts right back at them.

Then, their’s the cast. These were stars before they were stars. I mean Freddie Jones, Liam Neeson, Robbie Coltrane, Alun Armstrong, and David Battley just to name a few. The cast also included a seven foot tall cyclops who could see the future, but only when he would die. If he strayed from his appointed time of death, he would die a painful death instead of a peaceful one. The Beast was a grotesque monster they barely showed until the end, hinting that it lived up to its name.

This movie is only one example of why the 80’s rocked. The script was full of classic movie quotes that made this movie stand out, especially to geeks like me.

“Freedom? We have it! And fame? Nah. It’s an empty purse. Count it, go broke. Eat it, go hungry. Seek it, go mad!” — Torquil (Alun Armstrong)

Add to that, Krull also has an abundance of scary and fantasy creatures. Besides The Beast and his Slayers, there’s shape-shifting Changelings, assassins that kill with a touch, and a giant white spider that’ll make anyone suffering from arachnophobia a fright. The Fire Mares are the coolest horses to have, running so fast that their burning hooves can carry you through the air.

If you haven’t seen Krull, find it and watch it. It’s a fun adventure that will inspire you like it has me. As a fantasy writer, Krull is the kind of adventure I want to write about. The more fantastic, the better. It’s what adventures are meant to be. As they say on Krull, “Each to 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 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

Building characters in a story is like creating your own Frankenstein

030-gene-wilder“It’s alive! Alive!” These are the famous words from a classic science fiction movie and an 80’s movie theme song. Though it meant the creation of both a terrifying monster and a geek’s wet dream, the  word we’re looking for here is “creation”. Creating characters within a story is a detailed process for writers. You not only need to be able to describe the appearance of these fictional creations to give the readers something to imagine, but you need a personality, a morality code, even sexual orientation. It’s a challenge for any new author.

Within any given story are hundreds of characters. Sure, not everyone is accounted for, most are background players, but you do need to see them as part of the story. That’s why I like to compare writers to a movie director. We see the stories as their playing out, imagine and play out the story around each of these characters.

The hardest part is making these characters believable. The readers have to be able to see them as really people or creatures or aliens, etc. For example, Superman may be an alien from another world, but what makes him believable is his humanity, his humble upbringing on a farm in Kansas. He has powers above and beyond mortal man, but how he uses that power is what defines him.

I created my protagonist, Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh, based on my experiences as a U.S. Navy sailor. I didn’t model him after just one person, but on the many great men and women I served with. The core beliefs of honor, courage and commitment are at the heart of this character. Add to that the importance of family, friends and faith, and you have a solid foundation to work with.

One of the underlying issues with character creation is the comparison factor. Every character created today has some comparison attached to it. An underdog is another Rocky or a mobster is another Godfather or Tony Soprano. As a writer, you’re not trying to duplicate another character, but rather, be inspired by them. I found that family and friends make good role models for characters. I like to use their personalities, quarks, even appearance as the basis for my novels. They inspire me and motivate me, in the real world and in my fantasy world.

So “throw open the switches on the sonic oscillator and step up the reactor input three more points” to bring your characters to life. No matter who they are or what good or evil they intend, see them in your mind and put them in your story. That’s how writers become the literary version of God.

***

51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

Dr. King’s message resounds even in the world of fantasy

martin-luther-king-jr-2Today we celebrate and honor the life, work and inspiration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, but I never experienced a lot of the racism that was prevalent in that era. I was raised to look at the person, not the color of their skin. That was the crux of Dr. King’s message that still resonates today.

When I started writing the Forever Avalon series, I never expected to use the words of Dr. King in my novel. I mean, I was writing about knights, wizards and magic; but as I developed my story, there was something missing.

The premise behind Forever Avalon was a magical island hidden away from the outside world, accessible only through the Bermuda Triangle. The idea was people had been stranded on Avalon for centuries. When you think back to all the missing ships and planes that disappeared in the Atlantic, it made sense.

So, if that’s the case, then what about slave ships? The ships that brought African slaves from the Dark Continent to America. What if they ended up on Avalon too. From that premise, I created Togo, an island unto itself off the coast of Avalon. This was an island where the former slaves created their own utopia, separate from the medieval, magical world of Avalon. Along with the separation came suspicion. Those on Togo distrust the people of Avalon as they distrusted those who brought their ancestors to this strange land in chains.

With this as background in my story, it set up the chance to have a modern man like Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon, to bring the words he heard growing up to make a change for the better in his new home on Avalon.

Here is an excerpt from The Dark Tides: Book Two of the Forever Avalon series, where the Gil-Gamesh meets the people of Togo for the first time and tries to breach the mistrust through the words of Dr. King.

***

In the center of Togo was what appeared to be a mound of earth, approximately 500 feet in diameter and over 100 feet tall. In reality, it was a dome of stone, wood, thatch and tar with large crystals embedded in the structure to reflect the light inside. A large opening at the top of the dome circulated air inside through the four entrances at the base, each facing North, South, East and West.

As T’Ronga brought the Gil-Gamesh inside the Gathering Mount, Bryan was again amazed as to how a medieval society could build such an impressive structure with no modern tools or equipment. Stone arches reached up from the floor to hold up the ceiling, connected by wooden beams. There were no chairs or seats for anyone to sit in. At the back of the dome sat a raised dais, made solely of human skulls, with a throne of bones at the top. A shadowy figure sat there, staring out into the darkness. It was a gruesome sight, something made to invoke fear and dominance over people. Bryan wondered if he’d bitten off more than he could chew.

From the throne, the shadowy figure stepped down. He was a heavy-set man but very muscular, adorned with silver and ivory jewelry. He wore a cloak of various animal furs sewn together, clasped around his neck by an ornate broach of gold and rubies. He wore a leather bodice while the rest of his body was painted like the others. Atop his head was a headdress made from the feathers of a variety of birds with a small skull with precious gems in the sockets centered. He held a staff adorned with metal rings, one representing each of the chiefs of Togo, and a human skull at the top of the staff. It was said that the skull was that of the captain of the slave ship that brought them to Avalon.

“That is B’Rrak, Great Chieftain of Togo,” T’Ronga told Bryan.

Chief B’Rrak walked down and stood in front of the as he glanced back to see T’Ronga and his men with the Gil-Gamesh.

T’Ronga gave an order to the warriors around the Gil-Gamesh and they closed in tight. “You will wait here,” he ordered Bryan as he walked over to Chief B’Rrak.

Bryan stood in the Gathering Mount, awaiting his fate at the hands of these outcasts of Avalon. He watched closely as T’Ronga spoke with Chief B’Rrak; their conversation heated and quite vocal at times. T’Ronga seemed to plead for the Gil-Gamesh to speak. Bryan hoped he found an ally in this Togo warrior. Finally, Chief B’Rrak relented and returned to his throne. T’Ronga signaled his men to bring the Gil-Gamesh forward.

The Togo warriors nudged Bryan toward the throne, still surrounded as he approached the Skull Throne. Chief B’Rrak waved them off as they stepped back behind Bryan. The throngs of people who lined the streets started to file into the Gathering Mount. Their curiosity had brought them inside to see what Chief B’Rrak will do with the stranger.

“Gil-Gamesh, you stand in the presence of B’Rrak, Great Chieftain of Togo,” T’Ronga proclaimed. “Step forward and be heard.”

Bryan bowed to the Chieftain. “I am honored Chief B’Rrak. I am Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon. I humbled to be able to speak with you.”

“Do not thank me Gil-Gamesh, thank T’Ronga,” B’Rrak denoted. “The only reason you are still alive is because he says you are a man of honor. You asked for an opportunity to speak, so speak!”

Bryan collected his thoughts, carefully putting together his words so as not to offend B’Rrak or the people of Togo. “I have been overwhelmed by everything I have seen since I arrived on Avalon and Togo is no exception. You have truly built a wonderful life for yourself here. “I will not pretend to understand the hardships you or your ancestors went through when they arrived on Avalon. I have read stories about the slave trade at that time in our history. It was barbaric and unforgiving; but while you have lived here with the hate and contempt for the white man for hundreds of years, slavery of your people ended in the real world. You see, I am not from Avalon, I am an Outlander.

“So much has changed since your ancestors survived their journey and arrived on the shores of Togo. Africans now live, work and worship side-by-side with the white man. In fact, the barriers between the different races are practically non-existent. It happened in the real world and it can happen here. As the Gil-Gamesh, I can help bridge the gap between Avalon and Togo and build a new and lasting relationship.”

“Togo has prospered without the help of you, Gil-Gamesh, or anyone in Avalon,” B’Rrak shouted from atop his throne. “We will not bow down and pay tribute to the white king.” The large gathering of people cheered loudly, encouraged by the Chief’s words.

“And no one is asking you to Chief B’Rrak,” Bryan continued. “All I have heard since my arrival on Avalon is praise and respect for Togo. You have the fiercest warriors equal to any knight and powerful shaman on par with the great wizards on Avalon. We would love the opportunity to learn more from each other. The potential is unlimited.

“I didn’t have to come to Togo as part of my Grand Tour of Avalon, but I wanted too. I wanted to reach out to you, to all of you. The time to open relations between Avalon and Togo is now. All I ask is that you give us a chance.”

“A chance? A chance for what? To stab us in the back and return my people to a life of slavery? That’s all the white man has ever wanted!” B’Rrak condemned.

“With all due respect Great Chief, you’re wrong!” Bryan interrupted. A hush fell over the audience. No one had ever spoken to the Great Chieftain before. “This is the time for us to prove you wrong about the people of Avalon, to show you that we are not like the people who enslaved your ancestors.

“A wise man once spoke of a world where his children would be judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin. He said, ‘Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.’ His name was Martin Luther King, a son of African slaves, who believed that all people of all races could live together in peace. It was a dream he was willing to die for. Don’t let that dream die here too. You cannot live in hate when there is an opportunity for peace.”

T’Ronga was moved by the Gil-Gamesh’s words, as were some of the people in the audience. Never before had they heard anything like this from anyone from Avalon.

“Your words touch many here Gil-Gamesh and though your heart may be true, there are many on Avalon who are not as willing as you,” Chief B’Rrak said. “Maybe someday there can be peace with Avalon, but I do not think this is such a time.”

“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak with you Great Chief. May I have your permission to leave Togo in peace?” Bryan said as he bowed to Chief B’Rak.

Chief B’Rrak sat in silence then motioned to T’Ronga. “You may go Gil-Gamesh. May the Gods smile upon you through the rest of your journey,” B’Rrak blessed as T’Ronga led Bryan out. The crowd parted as they moved through, allowing them to leave the Gathering Mount. Some of the people bowed their heads in respect to the Gil-Gamesh, something never done before on Togo. Chief B’Rrak watched his people as he considered what the Gil-Gamesh said.

T’Ronga and his warriors lead the Gil-Gamesh down an easier path from the city to the shoreline. Once there, the Togo warriors saw the carnage of dead zombies Bryan left behind. They were amazed that one man could destroy the powerful magic’s of the Togo witch doctors.

“Our shaman will not be pleased,” T’Ronga stated. “It will take some time for them to raise more guardians.”

“Sorry, but I didn’t feel like joining the ranks of the undead.” Bryan held his hand out to T’Ronga in friendship. “Thank you T’Ronga, for giving me a chance here today.”

To the surprise of the other Togo warriors, T’Ronga clasped his forearm, a sigh of respect between warriors. “If it means anything Gil-Gamesh, you’ve made a believer out of me. If ever you need me, I will gladly fight by your side.”

“And I by yours …”

T’Ronga pulled a dagger from his belt and presented it to the Gil-Gamesh. The blade was long and thin, sharpened on both sides. The hilt is hand-carved ivory, shaped like a tiger claw, wrapped in leather.

“Take this to New Camelot to show your white king that you came to Togo and that you made a friend here.”

Bryan took the blade and admired the workmanship. “It will be an honor to carry this with me. Thank you T’Ronga.”

“I would like to hear more about this Martin Luther King. He sounds like he was a great man.” Bryan was happy to glad to hear him say that. “He truly was … I’d be happy to tell you more about him another time, under better circumstances.”

***

51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.