Do your research when it comes to weaponry, both medieval and modern

Whether you’re writing science fiction or fantasy, the accuracy of the weapons being wielded is as crucial as the characters and the setting. You wouldn’t take a long sword on a dungeon crawl (for a visual, watch the first episode of the anime Goblin Slayer) nor would a U.S. Special Forces carry an AR-15 in combat. This is where your research as a writer is critical.

You can be flexible when you mix in science fiction, like steampunk or dystopian, when you mix and match weapons together. Even in some fantasy aspects, weapons have been creatively produced, like “Stormbringer” from the Elric saga or Xena’s chakram… Functional weapons but not easily wielded.

I can honestly say that my years of playing Dungeons and Dragons gave me an edge in fantasy writing. When you have calculate the length of your weapon to wield it in a dungeon, it makes you think. (Remember, in these instances, size does matter!) Add to that, my military career gave me some much needed knowledge in military weaponry, from automatic weapons to aircraft and missile technology. I know the difference between an F/A-18 Hornet and an E-2C Hawkeye, a Sea Sparrow and a CWIS.

This was my problem while I was writing my latest novel, The Outlander War: Book 3 of the Forever Avalon Series. The story begins in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, in the heart of a naval exercise, when Avalon suddenly reappears, causing disruptions on both fronts. The U.S. Navy, now circling the mysterious island, wants answers. The tensions build as modern technology faces off against ancient magic, on an island where the laws of magic supersede the laws of science, as military forces continue to surround the mysterious island, bringing both sides to the brink of war.

I have already written two books with people using various medieval weapons, so that wasn’t the issue. Now, I had to incorporate the medieval fantasy world of Avalon with the U.S. and Russian Navy as well as special forces. This took a lot of research on my part. As a retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer, I served on three aircraft carriers so I was quite familiar with the aircraft, weaponry, and terminology. It was a little different in researching Russian ships, weapons, and aircraft, but necessary for my story.

Here’s an excerpt from The Outlander War demonstrating an exchange between modern military forces and medieval weaponry.

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His voice trailed off as his eye caught something different on the horizon. Hunter knew how keen the eyesight of an Elf was and tried to see as well. It was a clear night, the moon waning as a small sliver of a crescent high in the sky.

“What is it?” Hunter asked. “What do you see?”

“There’s a new ship out there, one I’ve never seen before.”

“Are you sure, Feredir?” Eadric asked. “Those metal contraptions look all the same to me.”

“I have observed all the same ships for the past few weeks, that one is new.”

Try as he might, Hunter could barely make out the ship in the darkness. “Can you describe it?” he asked. “Do you see any writing on it?”

“It looks like the other large warship… the aircraft carrier, I believe your father called it, but the front of the ship is curved upward like a ramp,” Feredir said. “There is some writing on the side of the main structure but I’m not familiar with the language.”

“Show me!” Hunter demanded. Feredir took a dagger and wrote a few letters in the dirt next to the fire. Hunter didn’t understand the words, but he recognized the language. “That’s Russian, I think,” he said. “It must be a helicopter carrier of some sort.”

“Are those the machines with the spinning blades on them?” Feredir asked.

“Yes, why?”

“Because there are four of them headed our way!”

Feredir drew his bow. Hunter turned to two of the younger knights standing with them. “Pass the word down along the coast that invaders are coming toward Avalon,” he commanded. The two men took off in opposite directions to warn the other outposts. “Henri, go tell my father what’s going on! We need him here immediately!” Henri dropped the teapot and he took off running toward the main encampment.

Hunter reloaded his Lancer with two new spellshots as he and Sir Eadric crouched low behind the protection of some rocks. Feredir acted as lookout.

“How far out are they?” Hunter asked.

“Three of them are holding their position about six furlongs off shore,” he said, scanning the horizon. “I’ve lost the fourth one.”

“What?” Hunter exclaimed and jumped up to look. Eadric followed suit.

“Where did it go?” Eadric asked. Before Feredir could answer, the three men heard a whirring sound from just off the cliff. From below the edge, a helicopter rose up in the air in front of them, threatening them with a rotary mini-gun.

The three took cover as the helicopter opened fire, pelleting the ground around them with rapid-fire spray. Feredir notched an arrow and readied himself. The firing stopped for a moment and the Elven warrior stood up and fired off an arrow. The aim was true, a perfect shot at the helicopter pilot, but it ricocheted off the front windshield. Feredir got a second arrow off, but it had the same result. He dove behind the rock just as the pilot began firing again.

Feredir cursed. “My arrows won’t penetrate that infernal machine!” Hunter weighed all the options and he came up with an idea.

“I think I can help you there,” he said. He pulled up his Lancer, ready to fire. “After I shoot, hit him again. Your arrows should penetrate this time.”

Hunter took a deep breath before he popped up and fired his Lancer at the helicopter. His spellshot—a combination of magic and alchemy loaded into a cartridge the size of a shotgun shell—fired a freezing spray at the helicopter, coating the front of the aircraft in a layer of frost. The windshield froze instantaneously, and the pilot stopped firing.

Feredir quickly popped up and fired another arrow at the windshield. This time, his arrow shattered the glass and pierced the pilot through the chest. The aircraft pitched to the side and the co-pilot tried to regain control. Feredir didn’t give him a chance and he fired another arrow, killing the co-pilot instantly with an arrow through the throat.

The helicopter spun out of control as it flew over the three warriors and careened toward the ground. The engines shut down just before impact, then it crashed, exploding in a giant ball of fire. Sir Eadric and Hunter roared loudly at their victory. Feredir just stood there silently, there was a hint of a grin on his face.

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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.

Is it too early for Christmas decorations? You would think so…

This is what I came home to last night. Not pumpkins, skeletons, or witches flying through the night, like you would expect on Halloween. No, not me. I come home to find my Christmas tree set up already. According to my wife, she needs time to let the branches fall into place so it’ll be “just right” for the holiday. This revelation coincides with the fact that most stores spent this past week taking down the autumn colors of fall for Christmas red and green (and Hanukkah blue and silver).

It always seems like the holidays get here earlier and earlier every year. Television shopping channels like QVC have been air since July (halfway point, i.e. “Christmas in July”) selling Christmas gifts, foods, and decorations. Of course, Hallmark Channel started its non-stop bombardment of holiday movies since the beginning of October. It’s utter madness.

Look, I love Christmas. It is my favorite time of the year. I love the lights, the movies and music, the annual TV Christmas specials (Rudolph and Charlie Brown especially)., and giving back to family, friends, and your community. It’s best represented by Scrooge’s nephew Fred’s speech in the Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol”…

“There are many things from which I might have derived good by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew, “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas-time, when it has come round-apart from… the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that-as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

That’s what I love about Christmas, I just wish it wasn’t thrust “in your face” so quickly. I live with a woman who embodies the Christmas spirit all year long. I mean, the full nine yards (music, movies, 24/7, 365 days a year, with a Christmas Countdown as her smartphone wallpaper) which is something I love about her… But it’s not for me. I long for the old days when we eased into the holidays, one after the other.

Related imageToday, it is about the almighty dollar and retailers try to get as much “bang for their buck” in the short amount of time during the holidays. When I watch movies like “A Christmas Story” and “The Homecoming”, you see the simple life of what Christmas was about. From Thanksgiving to Christmas Day, you slowed down and took the time to enjoy the holiday. Now, we’re rushing around so much, before you know it, Christmas is over.

Let’s all take a breath, step back, feel “Jack Frost nipping at your nose” and listen for the sound of jingle bells. Let’s enjoy the holiday season with family and friends, good food and  plenty of libations (remember, be safe with a designated driver) and all the love and happiness it brings. So Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Kwanzaa. Let the continuous bombardment of Christmas commercials, movies, music and TV specials commence.

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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.

No more remakes! For God’s sake, get a better writer!

Is it too hard to ask for something new, not another remake or reimagining of something from the past. We are now approaching our third incarnation of Charlie’s Angels, fourth if you count the time when they replaced Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith during the TV series run. How about an original idea for a change, huh?

I mean it. We now have another Terminator reboot (third since the original trilogy), another Addams Family movie (albeit animated) and our third Lost in Space reimagining. Now they’re also doing prequels to popular shows (The Sopranos and Game of Thrones). Why? What’s the point?

There is enough original material out there for hundreds of new movies and TV series to keep us occupied and entertained. I mean, Charlie’s Angels was great and it fit the 70s mantra of empowering women, but it’s been done and, with all due respect, you will never be better than the original. What’s next? The new Howdy Doody Show with CGI puppets?

Where has all the imagination gone? It’s like they’re looking for a quick fix and easy cash, not even trying to be original anymore. As a writer, it breaks my heart to see talent go to waste. It’s a shame that these executives can’t see the millions of dollars wasted on a movie or series. Of course, if it sees any semblance of profit, they’ll be happy and keep on doing it.

Part of the problem, and the solution, is online streaming services. All of these various streaming channels (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc.) allows an open source for new material. However, they’re just as guilty as the big studios. Disney+ is doing multiple Marvel-based series to tie into their movies. At the same time, we’re getting an original Star Wars series in The Mandalorian. Meanwhile, Netflix is doing a Lord of the Rings series where one actress commented she wants to see a female Gandalf. What?

It’s a ridiculous blend of originality and insanity. I don’t know what to believe anymore. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but I hope Hollywood would understand that being original is okay. It doesn’t mean redoing it and just change the gender or race of a character. There has to be substance behind the story. If you just want to reboot everything, then why have writers?

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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.

I have a long way to go as a storyteller and a writer

Sorry I’ve been absent from the blog for a while. I’ve had some personal issues to deal with, which I’m sure we’ve all had. So now, I’m ready to jump back into it.

In recent months, I’ve read over 15 books and binge watched several hours of anime. In that time, I’ve written maybe 20 pages in my current novel. I don’t know if it’s simple writer’s block or a lack of inspiration. I mean, I have my story outlined, I know what I want to say, but I just can’t put it down on paper (or the computer screen in my case). So what do I do, I read and I watch anime to motivate me; but instead, I find myself lacking… Lacking as a storyteller, as a writer, just lacking in general.

I find that my stories are, sometimes, less than. I find missing pieces, repeated words or sentences, and blatant plot holes. It’s a mess, and quite ddemoralizing.

I know it sounds kind of like a defeatist attitude, but it’s really just a reality check. I thought I was pretty good, very proud of my imagination and the stories I’ve been able to weave together. But, as I read other people’s work and watch the sometimes in depth story arcs you find in anime, I got a sense of humility, a longing that what I was doing just wasn’t enough. I still have a long way to go.

We all have our own shortcomings, and I aspire to be better, but at 56, it’s hard to find myself ever getting there. I know there are those authors who didnt get published til they were older, but I could never begin to compare myself to them.

I have to find my own voice, and to be honest, I thought I did. When I first wrote Forever Avalon, I thought I did a great job. The story was, to me, a perfect story. Then my mom read it, and gave me two pages worth of spelling mistakes, grammar errors, and othere corrections. That was a humbling experience to say the least.

It took that experience to help me develop my writing, the storytelling process, and even how I edit to further my style and capabilities. However, I still find myself staring at that computer screen from time to time. I know the story, I know how its supposed to go, but it’s just sitting there.
I think it’s a form of self doubt. My books are self published, I’ve put in more money into them than I’ve made, and with my latest book (The Outlander War) looming, I worry how it will do.

That comes with the territory for any artist, whether you be a writer, a musician, a filmmaker, etc. Frustration in your work spurs lack of inspiration, self doubt, and stress like you cannot believe. I’m trying to find the motivation for me to write these stories and not to doubt myself as a storyteller. It’s just a matter of time, and patience.

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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.

Is it Wrong to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon? No, it isn’t!

I can’t help but chuckle (under my breath) every time I read the title of one of my favorite anime… Is it Wrong to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon. It’s a problem that’s plagued D&D players since its inception, and now, it’s an anime.

When I first saw this anime, I thought it was to good to be true. Here is a story based on my years of playing Dungeons and Dragons. I mean, a “Little Rookie” dungeon crawler falls for the beautiful “Sword Princess” while trying to prove he’s worthy of her; all the while, he’s pursued by a variety of women who he considers just friends. Yup, every D&D players dream.

Is it Wrong to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon, or Danmachi, takes place in the fictional city of Orario to when gods all came down seeking excitement, limiting their divine powers to perceive and experience the lower world, offering mortals to fight monsters assorted in an underground labyrinth known as Dungeon as part of the god’s family, or Familia. The story follows the exploits of Bell Cranel, a solo adventurer under the goddess Hestia. As the only member of the Hestia Familia, he works hard every day in the dungeon to make ends meet while seeking to improve himself. He looks up to Ais Wallenstein, a famous and powerful swordswoman who once saved his life, and with whom he fell in love. He is unaware that several other girls, deities and mortals alike, also develop affections towards him; most notably Hestia herself, as he also gains allies and improves himself with each new challenge he faces.

As I watch this anime, I come to one basic conclusion… We’re all Bell Cranel. He is the plucky, wannabe hero who wants nothing more than to prove himself to the woman he loves. This is something that every man, or woman, has done in some form or another. We all want to be worthy of love, and Bell tries his best to work past his own inadequacies to become the hero he wants to be, through hard work, determination, and heart.

The world created by this anime is fun and exciting. You have your basic fantasy elements–Elves, Dwarfs, demi-humans, etc.–but also a real twist on the gods themselves. You have all pantheons included, from Greek to Norse and Far East deities, and even some gender-bending. Loki and Hephaestus as women actually works for me. With the exception of some of the female deities (Freya and Ishtar as an example) most of the gods don’t exude the divine power they embody. They’re just there to gather together a Familia, improve their status, and bestow their divine blessing on them.

The status thing is what brings out the D&D vibe in this anime. Their status is maintained on a magical tattoo on their back. The gods use a drop of their own blood to update and track their status as they fight the magical monsters in the dungeon. It keeps stats like a basic D&D character sheet–level, skills, abilities–and changes as they grow in power. It’s really reminds me of my long weekends spent in late-night D&D sessions!

Image result for danmachi anime fanart bell and ais

This anime has all the characteristics of a traditional “harem” anime as so many beautiful women are throwing themselves at Bell, and he is oblivious to all of it. His innocence and embarrassment at the affection shown to him is quite charming. His awkward nature reminds me of how I was around girls at a young tender age. It brings me back to my youth and, for someone my age, it keeps me “young at heart!” Add to that the adventure, dungeon crawling, monster fighting, and magical combat, and you’ve got a great story. The characters are engaging, enticing, and fun to watch.

Is it Wrong to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon is a great anime to watch and follow. I hope this storyline continues for quite a long time. There are many more stories of Bell and his Familia to be told and I look forward to watching them.

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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.

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.